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Sun., Oct. 4
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St. Lawrence County Surrogate Building to gain disabled accessibility


CANTON — The St. Lawrence County Surrogate Building — home to the Board of Elections and the Public Defender’s Office — will be partially accessible to the disabled come fall.

The county has planned for years to bring the building at Judson and Court streets into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, but the work never materialized.

Former Canton resident Mildred M. Whalen, who received the Harriet Tubman Humanitarian Award for her work on behalf of the underprivileged, wrote to the county Board of Legislators in 2003 about the building’s lack of access for the disabled. Numerous other complaints have been lodged.

The Board of Elections wants to make it as easy as possible for people to vote, Democratic Election Commissioner Jennie H. Bacon said.

“It’s not a good thing to discourage,” she said. “The accessibility to our office is a challenge every year.”

This summer a ramp will be built and other changes will be made to improve the building’s accessibility using part of a $255,654 three-year grant obtained by Public Defender Stephen D. Button through the state Office of Indigent Legal Services.

Using a design by Bernier, Carr & Associates, Watertown, the front steps will be replaced and a ramp will hook around the building, said county Governmental Services Director Michael J. Cunningham, who manages the county’s buildings. A second door in the foyer will be removed, making it easier for a wheelchair to maneuver.

“The landing will be larger than it is now,” Mr. Cunningham said. The renovation does not include an ADA-compliant bathroom.

Before the Board of Elections gets busy with petition filings, primaries and this year’s election, it will move Wednesday to the second floor of the Human Services Center on Route 310.

“We couldn’t move during all that,” Mrs. Bacon said. “For us to go, it had to be now.”

The Board of Elections will move back to its old space after the November election.

Voting machines and training of election inspectors will remain in the old jail, which has a ramp.

The Public Defender’s Office will move later before construction starts, probably to the Human Services Center, Mr. Cunningham said. But that decision has yet to be made.

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