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Aberdeen mayor to lead post office rally Saturday

Aberdeen Mayor Patrick McGrady will lead a rally outside the city's post office on Saturday morning to press for a handicapped ramp and other access accommodations at the 81-year-old building.
Aberdeen Mayor Patrick McGrady will lead a rally outside the city's post office on Saturday morning to press for a handicapped ramp and other access accommodations at the 81-year-old building. (TED HENDRICKS | RECORD STAFF)

Aberdeen Mayor Patrick McGrady will continue his years-long battle to make the Aberdeen Post Office handicapped accessible with a rally Saturday morning in front of the building.

Since 2010, McGrady has been lobbying the U.S. Postal Service build a ramp or other structure to allow disabled veterans, elderly people, handicapped people and anyone else access to the facility that was built in 1936 and which he says at one time was handicapped accessible.

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The rally will begin at 10 a.m. outside the post office at 30 W. Bel Air Ave.

"We want to give the [Postal Service] another chance to see the people in Aberdeen really need this, they really care about this, so we can fix it," McGrady said. "We want you to build this ramp. This is not acceptable to the city."

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The mayor said he's hoping for a good turnout – 30 to 40 would be a success in his mind and that they're successful.

The improvement project under way at the MARC train station in Aberdeen is progressing ahead of schedule and could be finished by early May.

"I am optimistic the representatives from the U.S. Postal Service will recognize the need and take steps to make their building handicapped accessible," he said. "If they don't, I'm confident the courts will side with my position that once a building is handicap accessible you can't remove that, which they did. So I hope they fix it amicably."

McGrady's battle began in 2010 when we walked from his office to the post office and encountered a man in a wheelchair at the bottom of the steps looking up, he said.

"Sometimes they come down and help," McGrady said the man told him, which McGrady found to be "problematic." He helped the man get into the building.

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Before he was elected mayor in 2015, McGrady said he sent letters to the local U.S. senators and representatives asking for help, which they did by sending letters to the U.S. Postal Service, and he was denied every time.

When he became mayor, McGrady said, he thought he might have a little more pull, so he asked the senators and congressman to write letters again. And they did, and got the same response.

"I continued to be annoyed at the responses," McGrady said.

Aberdeen Mayor Patrick McGrady has had plenty of involvement in politics in his 29 years, but he says it's only a means to an end, a way to get problems solved and to help make his hometown a better place.

He was given multiple reasons over the years, he said, including that it's a historic building, so it doesn't have to comply with ADA regulations. And, he said he was told, for people who are handicapped, the post office has branches in Havre de Grace, Belcamp and Churchville that are accessible.

At one point, between 1970-something and 2005, the building had an elevator on the left side, where it's clear that it was removed and bricked over, he said.

"That allowed someone in a wheelchair to access the front of the building and visit the Aberdeen post office," he said. "I don't know why it was closed."

What's worse, he said, is that in 2001, the USPS applied for and was issued a building permit by the city for a handicapped ramp that was expected to cost $75,000. Plans were submitted for it, the permit fee was paid and it was approved by the necessary parties, but it was never picked up, McGrady said.

"So it was never built," he said.

Following several months of discussion and still without a clear plan of exactly what comes next, the Aberdeen City Council has agreed to take ownership of the former high school building on Route 40 at Franklin Street in the city's downtown.

He has, over the years, offered to build the ramp himself and has received an offer of donations of materials from at least one local business. But the Postal Service told him it can't allow that, per its policy that "it can't accept gifts of improvements to any of its properties," McGrady said.

"Which to me means, it's an issue all over the country," he said.

"This is not an instance of government trying to tell somebody what to do. It is an instance of removing access to our less than physically able resident of Aberdeen to a really awesome building," McGrady said.

"We want the U.S. Postal Service to be good neighbors to the citizens of Aberdeen and this is something they need to do to be good citizens."

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