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Lift will restore handicapped access to Black Lick fire hall

| Friday, Aug. 1, 2014, 1:33 p.m.
Bruce Siskawicz | Trib Total Media
Two CNC Construction workers — Greg Cunningham (left) of Nanty Glo and Paul Grossman of Indiana —  work on new stairs and a wheelchair lift at the front of the Black Lick fire hall.

Construction work intended to make the Black Lick Fire Hall more accessible to individuals with mobility challenges should be finished in plenty of time for November's general election.

The fire hall has served as a polling place for more than 20 years, according to Indiana County's chief clerk, Robin Maryai. But, for this past spring's primary election, volunteers had to help voters get into the building to cast ballots after an entrance ramp was dismantled.

Fire department president Mike Sheriff said the wheelchair ramp that had provided access to the hall fell into disrepair and had to be removed this past spring.

“We had a ramp there and it got so bad we had to tear it out before someone got hurt,” Sheriff said. “We had to get rid of it.”

After pricing concrete ramps and factoring in maintenance costs and lifespan for a wooden ramp, an enclosed addition housing stairs and a vertical platform lift emerged as the most logical solution. The project is being funded using Burrell Township's allotment of $68,000 in Community Development Block Grant entitlement funds, according to LuAnn Zak of the county's Office of Planning and Development.

Sheriff said, in addition to the accessibility benefits during elections and everyday operations, the lift will be an asset if the hall is ever pressed into duty as an emergency shelter during a disaster.

“It will even have the capability of a battery backup with a generator to power up the battery if it goes dead,” he noted.

C&C Construction of Penn Run was awarded the bid for the 288-square-foot addition, stairs and wheelchair lift. The addition and stairs should be completed by the end of August, Morrow said. The wheelchair lift from Access Elevator of Pittsburgh could take an additional four to six weeks to be built and installed.

The state Department of Labor and Industry will need to inspect and certify the lift annually after its installation.

“They won't have to worry about snow removal, maintenance of the ramp, safety issues,” said Dave Morrow, of the county Office of Planning and Development. “They were kind of restricted as far as the property limits that would allow them to do a ramp, and a ramp would have been expensive. There would have been the need for approximately 58 linear feet of ramp to meet the code requirements for slope. To travel 58 feet on a ramp when you can just travel 50 inches vertically, it was kind of a no-brainer.”

Greg Reinbold is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-459-6100, ext. 2913 or greinbold@tribweb.com.

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