Main Street business, Machias officials at odds over ramp

Posted July 26, 2012, at 1:59 p.m.
Last modified July 26, 2012, at 4:51 p.m.
Travis Galligher of Northfield Builders completes work Thursday, July 26, 2012 on a controversial wheelchair ramp being built to provide handicapped accessibility to a storefront at 23 Main Street in Machias.
Dan Barr | BDN
Travis Galligher of Northfield Builders completes work Thursday, July 26, 2012 on a controversial wheelchair ramp being built to provide handicapped accessibility to a storefront at 23 Main Street in Machias. Buy Photo

MACHIAS, Maine — One Main Street business in downtown Machias believes that the struggle to provide for handicapped access is finally over.

The town doesn’t agree.

When building owner Sandra Bryand and her tenant Holly Garner-Jackson, proprietor of Woodwind Custom Framers and Gallery at 23 Main St., proposed a ramp to the entrance of the store in April, the Machias Board of Selectmen voted against it until further study could be done to determine where it would go. Bryand and Garner-Jackson planned on building it in front of the shop, while the selectmen worried that the ramp would impede use of the sidewalk.

After submitting engineering and Americans with Disabilities Act reports to the town and still not getting approval, Bryand was told the plans must go through the Maine Department of Transportation. After speaking with the DOT she took the next step and began building the ramp as she had designed it with support of Garner-Jackson’s customers, including many who rely on wheelchairs.

The town of Machias is less pleased with Bryand’s actions.

“We don’t want it the way she’s installing it,” said Town Manager Chris Loughlin. “It makes using the sidewalk difficult, and the way it’s pointing [downhill] makes the ramp potentially dangerous for someone coming from the handicapped parking spot.”

Loughlin and the town are not against a ramp being built and had their own design, which involved the removal of a fence to make more room for the ramp.

“The uphill side makes it easier to use and keeps it more off the sidewalk,” Loughlin explained.

Bryand and the town had planned a meeting with the DOT on Aug. 1 to finalize plans on the ramp, but a rotting entryway forced Bryand to rebuild the front stoop and she opted to put the ramp in at the same time.

Though she began the ramp construction without permission, the town hasn’t decided what steps it will take.

“As far as I know the [Aug. 1] meeting is still going to take place,” Loughlin said. “We’ll wait until then to take any action.”

The meeting will be held out in front of the storefront, where Bryand and Garner-Jackson hope to show town officials an already functional and well used ramp.

Garner-Jackson is especially excited as her customers have been requesting a ramp since she moved to the location from her previous building, which has a ramp.

“We’re planning on having wheelchair party once it’s finished,” she said. “One customer even told me he’d take off his prosthetic leg and come in on a wheelchair.”

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