Disabilities activist faults plan for Westminster City Hall access @

September 20, 1992|By Donna E. Boller | Donna E. Boller,Staff Writer

Plans to make Westminster's historic City Hall accessible to the disabled aren't good enough, a Hampstead wheelchair user and activist told city officials last week.

Marilyn J. Phillips, one member of a four-person disabled access committee convened by Mayor W. Benjamin Brown, said she doesn't believe the planned renovations will meet the standard of "reasonable access" under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.

The City Council tentatively agreed to make the first floor accessible by widening the entrance, installing handicapped-accessible restrooms and moving the council meeting room from the second to the first floor.

The council consensus opposed installing an elevator to the second floor because of the cost and a desire to avoid changing the appearance of the historic building. Staff plans would place offices most frequently used by the public on the first floor. City planning and public works offices would remain on the second floor, but handicapped persons could meet with planning and public works staff members in a first-floor conference room.

Ms. Phillips, an English professor at Morgan State University, urged installation of an elevator.

"I think City Hall should be a model for the community and therefore accessible," she said.

She predicted that private businesses will be reluctant to invest in meeting accessibility standards in their own buildings if "they look at City Hall and see that our model isn't even in compliance."

Mr. Brown said an elevator and interior changes to create an enlarged corridor leading to the elevator would cost an estimated $250,000. The elevator would be more expensive than a standard one because it would have to accommodate a split-level second floor. One section of the floor is 18 inches higher than the other.

Mr. Brown asked committee members to provide written suggestions in two weeks.

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