Lila Herod, former Moffat County deputy clerk and county elections supervisor, said improvements to the Hamilton Community Center serve not only for the betterment of the building, but also for the community.
“I’m glad that we could do something to improve it not only as a polling place, but it improves the whole community,” she said.
The Moffat County Commission approved, 3-0, a construction bid for a new wheelchair ramp, railing and door for the community center to APH Construction for $7,700.
The construction comes as part of an $18,450 grant from the Help America Vote Act received in November 2009.
The project will bring the community center, which serves as an election location, up to the American Disability Association’s standards, saving residents a trip to Craig, or having to fill out a mail-in ballot when voting, county Clerk and Recorder Elaine Sullivan said.
Sullivan said making county election polling places handicap accessible is a must.
And now all Moffat County polling places will be up to disability code with the recent construction bid of the Hamilton Community Center.
Sullivan said the current wheelchair ramp is too steep, the hand railings are too far apart and the doorway is three inches off the concrete landing. The landing is not wide enough and there is no handicap parking at the center.
Construction plans include removing the existing ramp on the north side and replacing it with a new ADA compliant ramp, which will extend to the handicap parking space located in the post office parking lot.
Sullivan said she is proud to have all Moffat County polling places up to code.
The Maybell Community Center and the Dinosaur library were brought up to the ADA’s standard several years ago, but the Hamilton center was caught in a snag.
Moffat County conducted surveys in 2005 and 2008 to see whether Hamilton residents wanted the community center to remain their polling location or whether the precinct would be mail-in ballot only.
The county commission met with Hamilton residents, who voiced they wanted to keep the polling center open.
“That was something that we really evaluated — whether or not it was worthwhile to keep that location open,” Herod said. “We went out and asked the citizens in that community how they felt about it, and they felt strongly about keeping their polling place open.”
But, the stipulation of keeping it open was to have it up to disability standards.
“We knew it had to be done, we just needed the help to do it,” Sullivan said. “They have the funding available, and we took advantage of it.”
Herod applied for the grant in July, 2009.
“When we temporarily closed it in 2008, because it didn’t meet the ADA requirements, I made a promise to them that day that if we can get the grant funds and get this polling place accessible, I promise we will reopen it,” Herod said.
Colorado Secretary of State Bernie Buescher presented the grant to a crowd of Hamilton residents at the center in November 2009.
The community center, originally the Hamilton General Store, serves a number of purposes. It was converted to a community center in 1987.
Sullivan said that of the 150 Hamilton residents, traditionally “only about 50 people or less” vote at the community center.
“(In) any small community, just like the Maybell Community Center, that’s their location to meet and get together and host public meetings,” Herod said, “It’s there for the kids, as well as the adults. It is kind of the center of their community.”