To the Editor:
I really did everything in my power not to have to resort to writing another letter. However, when town and state employees as well as elected and appointed officials become engaged in activities that are in violation of Massachusetts statutes and laws, and then cover it up, it’s time to act.
When Edgartown National Bank renovated its building on Circuit Avenue in Oak Bluffs into a new bank, under Massachusetts building codes the scope of the renovations should have triggered full handicap access, as well as all applicable access/egress codes, but these were ignored.
The obstacle that was ignored from the start was the existing steep ramp entry, which always was a weird thing to have pop up in the middle of a sidewalk. They removed the entire floor and rebuilt the foundation as part of the renovation. Why didn’t they bring the floor and entry down to street level at that time? Who owns that strip of sidewalk anyway? Who holds the liability?
I spoke to selectman Walter Vail by phone and by email on this matter. He said he would check into it. The Massachusetts access code pops up online, and is very easy to read and follow. Nothing happened. I then contacted Thomas Hopkins at the handicap-access board.
Thomas had me send him pictures. He said he would send an enforcement officer to the Vineyard, and asked me if I could send more photos with someone in them for clarity. A friend volunteered, and the photos were sent off. I called Thomas, and he said the photos were great. He then asked if I had spoken to Walter Vail. I told him I had, but that I was being ignored. He then informed me that Walter was a close personal friend of his. All further attempts at communication with Tom Hopkins went unanswered.
I sent what I thought was a formal complaint to the new Oak Bluffs building inspector. I later furnished The Times copies of my complaint. Mr. Barbosa denied having received the complaint.
It’s actually a fairly dangerous situation that the bank has put itself into. They know there is a problem. The ridiculous paper sign requesting people not to use the right door is an attempt to keep the door from opening into the ramp. In a wheelchair, what do you do when you get to the top? There should be at least 60 inches to move about. Even regular traffic is in danger. Those heavy doors swinging in the wind could trap/crush anyone in the space between the door and railing.
This is the only egress as well, bad entry in and out, no opening windows inside, can’t imagine how all the fire inspection people let it fly as well. This building is not safe in or out. Ripe for tragedy.
The selectmen need to make sure of, and demand compliance with, codes. I will provide copies of all correspondence to anyone who may need it. I hope the State Access Board is listening.