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It’s past time that city remove obstacles at its historic building

City Council has agreed to a settlement over handicap accessibility issues at its historic City Hall building.

With the settlement, the city finally is moving ahead with upgrades that will provide greater access to all individuals.

Frankly, the upgrades are overdue.

For decades, people in wheelchairs could access City Hall via a ramp in the back leading to the door and hallway through the police department. How uncomfortable it was to have to pass by suspects handcuffed to benches in the hallway on the way to the elevator to other floors where administrative offices are located.

Then, more recently, the police department was closed off, making it even more difficult for those with mobility issues.

Now, as part of the settlement, the city has agreed to build a new ramp in front of City Hall. Estimates range from $100,000 to $500,000 for design and construction.

First, we wonder what a ramp in front of this notable building will look like. This is a historic building with an appreciable architecture. It stands between the prime downtown area and the historic district. While a new ramp is not required to match the exterior, it would be a shame — and possibly an eyesore — if attempts were not made to strike a harmonious look.

Second, we hope it will not cost half a million dollars. Even $100,000 sounds like a lot of money for a ramp, but we recognize that this is not a typical ramp, and likely not just a ramp. Besides a sizeable ramp, landscaping will have to be involved, and then there are the front doors to consider once a person in a wheelchair gets to the top of the ramp.

How much does a set of automatic doors run these days?

These are just obstacles. It will be the city’s job to overcome them in a financially viable way.

And that brings us to our third and most important thought — our wishes.

And they are that the city will move this important project along without further delay and fully open City Hall to all members of the community.

It’s unfortunate that it took multiple demonstrations and lawsuits to get to this point, but in the end the efforts will have been worth it.

We salute those who fought hard for this — Roads To Freedom Center for Independent Living, ADAPT North Central Pennsylvania and members of the Williamsport community, including Thomas Grieco, Tina Cummings, Jay Harner and Marie Prince.

Persons living with physical conditions that inhibit their free movement already are challenged enough. When it comes to public buildings, even old ones, we need to make it a priority to do whatever is possible to accommodate them.

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