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Renovations address ADA compliance

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The lack of a handicapped-accessible restroom resulted in a threatened lawsuit against the Historic 1908 Courthouse in Independence.

By Patrick Smith

INDEPENDENCE — The restrooms in the Historic 1908 Courthouse in Independence soon will be fully handicapped-accessible, according to 1908 Courthouse Foundation Board Vice President Ken Winans.
Grayson County’s symbolic building came under fire in early February from an activist for the rights of disabled persons, who accused the courthouse of being in violation of several Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessibility requirements. Dr. Marilynn Phillips of Maryland threatened to take legal action if the courthouse foundation did not address issues she thoroughly outlined in email correspondence with the board and several other parties involved.

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Despite lacking the full funding to pay for the restroom project, the foundation board voted unanimously to move forward with renovations to the building’s restrooms, which were the main focus of Phillips’ emails.
During a recent visit to the courthouse, renovations to the men’s restroom on the main floor were complete, and local contractors Tom Sims and Dan Stewart were already working on knocking out the privacy wall and making the other necessary changes to the women’s restroom next door.
Winans said the foundation had raised about a third of the cost needed to make the renovations so far, but he was hopeful that more contributors would make donations soon.
Winans said the board hasn’t done much with the other projects needed to make the building fully ADA compliant, but he said he had been in talks with building inspector Jimmy Moss about handicapped accessibility to the outdoor bandstand behind the courthouse. Also still on the foundation’s to-do list is installing wheelchair access to the stage in the upstairs Baldwin Auditorium.
Both were issues raised by Phillips in her letters.
The total cost of projects at the courthouse is approximately $17,000.

Donations to the Historic 1908 Courthouse can be made at www.historic1908courthouse.org, using PayPal, or via check to: Historic 1908 Courthouse Foundation, PO. Box 336, Independence, VA 24348.