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Carroll County Times

Sykesville hires firms to inspect ADA compliance

A Hampstead resident filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of the Interior regarding accessibility compliance with the town of Sykesville for several buildings and parks in the area.

Marilynn Phillips filed the complaint Oct. 6 against the Sykesville Gate House Museum, the Sykesville Historic Colored Schoolhouse, the Old Main Line Visitors Center and Post Office's second floor, the Sykesville & Patapsco Railway and four parks in Sykesville for not being compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

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Sykesville has hired two ADA consulting firms, said Mayor Mike Miller. The firms will determine the estimate of the cost and the scope of such a project, Miller said.

"The council would have to approve it, because funding would be required," Miller said.

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Funding these projects would affect the future budget, Miller said, and be a "major hurdle."

Phillips filed with the Department of Interior because it deals with programs, services and regulatory activities relating to parks and recreation, as well as historic and cultural preservation, she said. The Department of Interior and Department of Justice often refer the complaint to appropriate agencies, according to the Department of the Interior.

Phillips said in previous years, she filed with the Maryland Commission on Civil Rights, but decided to file on the federal level because they have the ability to monitor the entire municipality.

The then-titled Maryland Commission on Human Relations, now the Maryland Commission on Civil Rights, handled Phillips' complaint against Sykesville's Baldwin Station Restaurant more than a decade ago.

She said the commission reached a settlement agreement nine years after filing her complaint in April 2000. A wheelchair accessible ramp was installed in 2009, said Phillips.

The Gate House Museum is a former cottage from Springfield Hospital, which opened in 1997. Miller said in a previous interview the town council has always intended for the Gate House Museum to move to an ADA accessible compliant building in the long term.

Phillips said the fix could have been simple when the Gate House Museum opened. If a ramp were built by volunteers, the cost would be exponentially less than when dealt with by a contractor.

"This is nothing, this is like moving furniture," Phillips said.

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Now that the Gate House has expanded to several floors, it would be more difficult to make accessible in its current building, Phillips said.

The Sykesville Historic Colored Schoolhouse does not currently have a ramp directly to access the building. The second floor of the Old Main Line Visitors Center and Post Office is not accessible by an elevator, and has had public events, Phillips said.

Phillips said the pattern of neglect toward compliance makes her more passionate about the issue.

"They get away with it for a year, then a year and a day, then a year and two days, then 10 years," Phillips said.

Phillips also filed complaints against Sykesville's parks including Beach Park, Harold Burkett Park, Lexington Run Park and Jones Park due to the mulch which surrounds the playground and lack of a curb rise for people with wheelchairs.

Jones Park was renovated in 2011, and a rubberized surface was installed to the park. The town received $100,000 from the Maryland's Community Parks and Playgrounds program for the renovation However, the park is surrounded by mulch, which Phillips said makes it impossible for anything with wheels to get through.

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"Why not build a moat?" Phillips said.


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