GREENFIELD – County leaders are preparing to invest about $28,000 to make the building that houses veterans services more accessible to the people the office helps.
Contractors will soon add chair lifts to the Hancock County Memorial Building, 98 E. North St. in Greenfield, to make the building accessible to visitors who use wheelchairs.
A wheelchair ramp was recently added to the west entrance to the facility, and chair lifts are planned to help visitors get up and down the stairs in the building, which has no elevator. Handrails are expected to be installed alongside the ramp this week once the weather cooperates, said commissioner Marc Huber.
The facility was built in the 1920s and includes a basement and a second floor. With no elevator, residents with physical disabilities aren’t able to easily access the building, which houses a myriad of organizations, including Mental Health Partners, the county’s veterans services office and Families First.
At least once a month, a veteran who uses a wheelchair, cane or walker tries to visit the first-floor veterans services office but is greeted by many steps not friendly to their disability, said Bob Workman, veterans services officer.
Others know they can’t easily enter the building and avoid it all together, missing out on resources that aim to help them, he said.
“The steps are really difficult to navigate,” he said. “There’s a lot of them.”
Workman makes house calls if he has to, visiting those who can’t make it to his office. Sometimes, veterans send a family member in to pick up needed paperwork. They’ll fill it out in the car without ever going inside the office.
That system works, but Workman fears there are some people who need help and aren’t getting it because they can’t visit the building. Handicapped-accessible renovations will enable the offices located in the Memorial Building to serve more residents, Workman said.
Commissioner Brad Armstrong said the project, expected to cost about $28,000, will be paid for through proceeds from money the county borrowed three years ago; county leaders have been planning for the project for a number of years, he said.
The first step of the project was to build a wheelchair ramp for visitors to enter the building. Previously, there were only stairs. The new ramp was the first step to making it easier for visitors who struggle with steps to get inside the building; the lifts will make the three floors more accessible, Workman said.
Installing a wheelchair lift is the most cost-effective way to make the building accessible to all, as installing an elevator would be too costly, Armstrong said.
“This allows us to fulfill a need,” he said.
The work will take about six weeks to complete and should be finished in September if all goes well, Workman said.