June 20, 2018
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Machias to hire an engineer to develop Main Street wheelchair ramp options

By Tom Walsh, BDN Staff

MACHIAS, Maine — There is a handicapped parking spot within 10 feet of the Main Street entrance to the Woodwind Gallery & Framers shop in downtown Machias.

Within 10 feet of the parking space there is a curb cut to allow wheelchairs and mobility scooters to access the paving brick sidewalk.

But as things now stand, the barrier presented by three concrete steps between the sidewalk and the front door of the gallery, frame shop and art supply store would preclude entry by anyone who can’t climb stairs.

Gallery owner Holly Garner-Jackson wants that situation resolved as more than a few of her customers have physical disabilities that preclude them from getting into her shop at 23 Main St. Since renting the space last month, Holly has been working with the building’s owner, Sandi Bryand, to have a wheelchair-accessible ramp designed and built.

As proposed, it would stretch across the face of the building, a ramp virtually identical to the one Bryand has just down the street to accommodate customers at the Bags O Rags thrift shop building that she owns at 40 Main St.

When Bryand first presented the ramp proposal to the town for approval last month, the Board of Selectmen had more questions than she had answers, so the matter was deferred. Unknown to her, she claims, her proposal came up two weeks later and was voted down. To say the least, Bryand was not amused.

On Wednesday she and supporters of a Woodwind Gallery ramp — including one in a wheelchair and others walking with canes — asked the five-member board to reconsider its decision not to allow construction of the ramp.

Without casting a formal vote, the board agreed unanimously that it could not accept the ramp design developed by Bryand and a contractor because it doesn’t meet the strict specifications of the federal Americans With Disabilities Act.

“This board is not anti-handicapped,” said Chairman Aubrey “Skip” Carter. “If we allow a ramp it will have to be built to ADA standards. We want to work with you, and we do not discriminate.”

Town Manager Chris Loughlin told the board he had problems with the ramp as proposed by Bryand because it extends onto the sidewalk.

“By putting it on the sidewalk, you are taking a public asset and diverting it for private use,” he said.

“Right now we are grasping at straws,” Carter said. “We’ll invest some money and have an engineer come down and then report to us.”

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