Advertisement
Carroll County Times

Report: Taneytown building deemed not ADA accessible for public use

When three Taneytown entities ceased operation in September at the rustic, red-bricked building they co-inhabited, it was over allegations that the building wasn't ADA compliant.

Local disability rights activist Marilynn Phillips accused the Taneytown History Museum, Chamber of Commerce and Visitor's Center's location at 24 E. Baltimore St. of not being up to snuff with the Americans with Disabilities Act's requirements. Now, a consultant has substantiated the claim that it's not fit for public use as is.

Advertisement

"The museum and the chamber made the decision they had to make based on the facts they had based on the complaint ... support [from] the city, which wasn't for us to stay there long term," said Doug Heck, a Taneytown History Museum volunteer.

The facility was evaluated using the 2010 ADA standards, Andrew Yarrish, of Takoma Park-based Universal Designers and Consultants, wrote in a letter to city attorney Jack "Jay" Gullo Jr.

Advertisement

There's no accessible entrance to the building, the letter states.

The sidewalk entrance has a steep ramp, leading to the exterior doors. Then there's three steps between the interior door landing and the first floor. And the southern entrance from the parking lot's ramp is also not ADA compliant, according to the letter.

If the facility is open to the public, then the lack of accessible entrances means it's not up to ADA requirements, the letter states.

Inside the building, stairs lead to the second floor, which housed part of the history museum's exhibits. While the stairwell had a "chair-type stair lift" attached - which was "probably useful for some individuals" - it didn't comply with the ADA's standards, the letter states.

Yet, the report had a glimmer of hope that the city-owned building won't need to funnel money into repairs. Because if city and county employees are the only ones to use the space, these non-ADA-compliant barriers do not need be removed, according to the letter.

"However, there is still the obligation to provide reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities and program accessibility for any public using the facility," the letter states.

And that works for the city, said city manager Henry Heine Jr.

The Chamber of Commerce's lease with the building was set to expire this summer. I

Advertisement

t was unclear if it would be renewed as the city had expressed interest in using the location, situated almost across from City Hall, for office space - extra room, Heine said, that's sorely needed.

"I've got a guy right now who's moving from office to office," he said. "He's sharing - he doesn't have an office."

If an employee is hired who needs ADA compliant accommodations, he or she will be placed in an ADA-accessible building, such as City Hall, Heine said.

Currently, the Taneytown History Museum is keeping artifacts in the building and has until June 30 to place them elsewhere. The Chamber of Commerce, the organization whose name is on the lease, signed an amendment that in May the lease could be extended as storage only if a home for the museum is not found, according to Chamber of Commerce President Cynthia Lamirande.

"It's unfortunate that we put so much effort into something that we [didn't] get the support from the city to find a solution," Heck said of the Taneytown History Museum created in 2004.

Officials are holding some displays at the New Windsor State Bank in Taneytown as it searches for a new home.

Advertisement

"I'm still pursuing, looking at other available properties and trying to obviously keep in the forefront of my mind the ADA issue," said Bob Miller, past chamber president who's spearheading the museum's house hunting committee.

So once the lease expires, the building will likely turn to city office space and storage once the lease expires, although Mayor James McCarron Jr. said he wasn't quite sure that was necessary.

"I don't think we have any need for it right now," he said. "I think eventually there'll be city offices over there - whether it'll be one year or 10 years ... I don't think we have any immediate need for it."

The consultant cost the city about $15,000 - not including attorney fees or city staff time, according to Heine. At the end of Fiscal Year 2013, the city will amend its budget, and if the cost cannot be covered, it will dip into its savings to foot the bill.

As for Phillips, she received a copy of the letter but is tied up with another case in Virginia.

"I have not had the opportunity to read the report," she wrote. "I appreciate Mr. Gullo's sending me a copy and hope to read it as soon as possible."


Advertisement