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YMCA to improve access to disabled

Hagerstown Councilman N. Linn Hendershot has criticized the YMCA, saying the facility's handicapped parking and access is inadeq

Hagerstown Councilman N. Linn Hendershot has criticized the YMCA, saying the facility's handicapped parking and access is inadeq

August 30, 2002|by SCOTT BUTKI and ANDREA ROWLAND

scottb@herald-mail.comand

andrear@herald-mail.com

Work will begin Sept. 3 to make the Hagerstown YMCA more accessible to handicapped users, YMCA Board Chairman Rich Hoban said Thursday night.

Hagerstown Councilman N. Linn Hendershot and the city building inspector met earlier in the day with Hagerstown YMCA Executive Director Michael Flicek about handicapped parking and accessibility at the group's Eastern Boulevard facility.

That meeting came after Hendershot, an ex-officio member of the Washington County Disability Advisory Committee, publicly criticized the YMCA Tuesday, saying during the Hagerstown City Council meeting that the facility did not having adequate handicapped parking and access.

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The YMCA, which opened in December 2001, has six handicapped parking spaces on the sides of the building but none in front of the building's entrance.

Hendershot said Flicek had promised him that improvements would be made by spring. He said he was frustrated by the lack of progress.

Contractor Jeter Paving of Hagerstown was scheduled to start working next Tuesday to designate three spaces near the building's entrance as handicapped and add a ramp over the curb near the spaces, Flicek said.

The YMCA had trouble getting a contractor to do the work earlier than next week, he said.

Flicek said Thursday afternoon that the work would be put on hold while the YMCA waited to see city Building Inspector Mike Heyser's recommended changes, but that he would try to have the work done as soon as possible after getting the written recommendations.

The building inspector said later Thursday that he probably would have the recommendations by today.

Flicek could not be reached for comment Thursday night.

Hoban knew Thursday night that YMCA officials should have the recommendations by today, and said the already scheduled work would move forward as planned.

The YMCA is not in violation of any city codes, but "there is a better way to serve those customers who are somewhat handicapped," Heyser said.

Under federal law, handicapped parking spaces must be located as close to the main entrance as possible, said Peggy Martin, chairwoman of the county's Disability Advisory Committee.

"In my mind, there's no conceivable reason why those spaces were installed where they are today," Martin said.

The distance people with disabilities must travel from their vehicles to get inside the YMCA might deter them from using a facility built for use by people of all abilities, she said.

Hendershot said he will be satisfied if the YMCA makes the improvements soon.

"If they delay, they are opening themselves up for further criticism," he said.

In addition to the planned changes, Hendershot said he wants the YMCA to put a ramp over the curb directly in front of the building's entrance for use by people dropped off at the YMCA.

He also would like to see four or five handicapped parking spaces, not three, near the building's entrance, Hendershot said.

Flicek said he did not want to comment on Hendershot's public criticism of the YMCA.

Hendershot said his comments at Tuesday's meeting were partially sparked by a letter from a YMCA member from Boonsboro who requested anonymity.

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