Handicap Accessibility at Courthouse Challenged – 911 Center Needs New Compressor

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Wyoming County Commissioners (above, from left) Judy Mead, Tom Henry and Ron Williams held their regularly scheduled public meeting on Tuesday morning after the monthly meeting of the Prison Board.

Photos and Story by Rick Hiduk

The July 11 meeting of the Wyoming County Commissioners had its highs and lows as the board was apprised of enhancements to the Historic Tunkhannock Walking Tour and had to acknowledge that the courthouse in Tunkhannock is not fully handicap-accessible.

Lori Bennett informed the commissioners that her recent temporary confinement to a wheelchair brought her to the realization that anybody in her situation cannot get into the courthouse without help.

I really never noticed until I was the one needing assistance,” Bennett stated.

She found that decorative marble slabs at each doorway on the first floor prevented both entrance and egress. “A wheelchair can’t go over them without someone to lift the front,” Bennett explained. There is also no button inside or out for a person in a wheelchair to press for assistance.

Once inside the courthouse, she tried to used the restroom, only to discover that the door on the stall cannot be closed with a wheelchair inside.

Commissioner Ron Williams said that he had mentioned the problems to the chief clerk when the county was applying for a CCAP grant for upgrades to the courthouse.

We’ll address these issues the best way we can,” Commissioner Tom Henry stated, adding that there might be a grant that could provide funding for upgrades.

Commissioner Judy Mead suggested that maybe a DDBG grant would cover the costs.

Another problem that Henry hopes can be funded without much trouble is the need for a new compressor at the 911 Center. A second compressor is currently picking up the slack, noted Chief Clerk Bill Gaylord, but it being pushed to its limit.

Two bids were received for the work, the lowest at $6,700. Gaylord suggested having the contractors test the existing generator, selling it, and getting a new one before winter.

We don’t want to let it go,” Henry said of the problems. “We want to get it fixed.” He added that he hopes that the purchase will fit in the 911 budget.

In addition to approving new hires and promotions at the Wyoming County Prison (read: http://www.endlessmtnlifestyles.com/?p=7852), the commissioners approved a request by Judge Russell Shurtleff to hire Jessica Marie Ebert as the new law clerk. Current law clerk, Arriane Slocum, has given notice that she wishes to resign as law clerk to spend more time with her family, according to a letter from Shurtleff to the commissioners.

Ebert was hired as a part-time, non-union employee at $50 per hour starting wage. She will begin work on Monday, July 17 and receive a few days of training from Slocum.

The commissioners called for the convenience of the salary board on Wednesday, July 19 to address an increase in salary requested for Rhea Baldwin, subsequent to her certification as a court reporter.

The board approved the hiring of Elizabeth Foster as a part-time administrative assistant to the district attorney to fill in for the current assistant who is out on medical leave.

Solicitor Paul Litwin III called for an executive session during which numerous items were discussed, but on which no action was taken. Among the matters discussed were two assessment appeals, a property dispute at Lake Winola over the placement of a dock, and the Samantha Bailey vs. Wyoming County case.

According to an article by Times-Shamrock reporter Terrie Morgan-Besecker, charges were filed against Bailey on Jan. 12, 2016 for possession of a controlled substance and drug paraphernalia after she was admitted to Tyler Memorial Hospital on Jan. 1, 2016 for a drug overdose. The article indicates that Bailey’s mother, Kandi Madill, voluntarily surrendered both the heroin and paraphernalia to authorities in accordance with a law they contend was supposed to guarantee immunity to Bailey.

Though District Attorney Jeff Mitchell dismissed the charges in September 2016, Bailey has filed a federal lawsuit, citing unnecessary legal expenses and infringement of freedom incurred while she was technically under arrest.

Because the county is named in the lawsuit, Henry explained after the executive session with the solicitor, “We wanted to make sure…that we were covered.”

The next meeting public meeting of the Wyoming County Commissioners will be held on Tuesday, July 25. Check back with www.EndlessMtnLifestyles.com to learn more about how the Wyoming County Cultural Center has enhanced the Historic Tunkhannock Walking Tour with a mobile app.

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