Chamber in tight ADA spot

LISBON — The Chamber of Commerce may need some financial help to resolve a handicap-accessibility complaint filed by a local man who uses a scooter to help get around.

Chamber director Marilyn McCullough said the civil rights complaint was filed last November with the U.S. Department of Justice and they have been working since to resolve the dispute.

She said the story began last fall when the man expressed interest in wanting to attend meetings of the Landmark Foundation meeting, which is a chamber committee focused on preserving Lisbon’s historic buildings. Since the chamber office on South Market Street could not accommodate his scooter, the Landmark Foundation met several times at the Lepper Library, which is handicapped accessible. The man reportedly was advised of the meeting change but did not attend any of them.

The complaint was filed under the Americans With Disabilities Act and a mediation meeting was held in April at the library with federal officials. McCullough said they agreed to investigate making the building handicapped accessible and retained the services of an architect.

Their first option was to install a ramp at the front entrance but discovered there was not enough room, and the doorway would also have to be widened. The chamber then looked at a side entrance to the north, but a ramp was not possible there either.

The architect said the only option would be to install an electric lift at the side entrance to the north, and McCullough said that would cost an estimated $5,000 to $7,000 just to purchase the lift. The chamber usually carries a year-end balance of about $5,000.

The mediator suggested approaching the man, and they asked him to reconsider, at least for now. McCullough said the man said he would think about it because he certainly did not want to bankrupt the organization.

In the meantime, the chamber intends to search for grant funding that would help them pay the cost of purchasing and installing an electric lift so they can become ADA compliant.

“We just can’t afford it on our own,” McCullough said.

The man who filed the complaint was contacted for this story but declined comment.