Elkhart Councilman slow to fix handicap accessibility concerns

An Elkhart coffee shop is crying foul after its landlord turned the handicap-accessible building, totally inaccessible, following a 2010 renovation project.

That landlord is none other than Elkhart 1st District Councilman Dave Osborne.

After our Oct. 11 report, Osborne vowed to fix the problem within four days. He says he built a temporary ramp within that time frame. The only problem, he never told his tenant, The Daily Grind Coffee Shop, it was available to use.

"I didn't say anything to the people in ‘The Grind’, primarily because I didn't think they'd be willing to put it out. In hindsight, I probably should have told them I had it available,” Councilman Osborne said.

That poor communication left the ramp untouched, forcing dozens of elderly and handicapped customers to struggle up steps in order to grab a latte or mocha.

"To say you're going to have it done in four days and here we are going on a month and a half and it’s nowhere to be found, hello,” customer Jody McDonough said with a sarcastic laugh.

However, the concept was no laughing matter, outside the Daily Grind Monday night.

"We just saw her lying right here face first on the ground crying in pain,” employee Samantha Frederickson recalled.

Cameo Victor, 80, a regular at The Daily Grind, was walking down the two front steps in question, when the ticking time bomb, went off.

An abbreviated transcript of Monday night’s 911 call:

Dispatcher: "911, what is your emergency?"

Caller: "We just had an elderly lady fall in front of The Daily Grind in downtown Elkhart. She fell down the stairs walking and smacked her face."

Dispatcher: "And she hit her face on the cement?”

Caller: "Yeah, her forehead is bleeding and she is in a lot of pain right now. We have a pillow underneath her head. She has a blanket over her too."

Dispatcher: "The ambulance is on the way for her.”

"You just can't help but feel bad for somebody like that because all they were doing was coming here to enjoy a cup of coffee and some food and the next thing they know, they're going to the hospital,” Frederickson added.

The saga began last November when Elkhart gave Councilman Osborne a grant to restore the facade of his historic Green Block Building. He says the steps were put in to replace a decrepit ramp built in 1919.

"The wood and everything had rotted throughout the years and was getting ready to collapse,” Osborne said as he stood next to the deteriorating structure back in October.

Councilman Osborne says the City of Elkhart promised him money to install new sidewalks in front of the Green Block. However, that money never came through and the sidewalk was never installed, making it near impossible to have a ramp put in place.

“I had told all the tenants that it was coming and everybody was looking forward to it and then the block grant funding got decreased by 17 percent. They simply ran out of money,” Osborne added.

Money, Osborne says he's had to foot himself; spending hundreds to further repair hallow cavities below the sidewalk.

Tack-on an invoice from a local construction company, which shows he's paying more than $4,000 to replace the two steps with a new permanent ramp. The project is currently slated for the first week of December.

"I’m doing the best job I can, to get it done as fast as I can,” Osborne said.

Customers say it's too little, too late, with an open-ended promise, still short of stepping-up safety.

"It should not happen, it should not happen,” Frederickson concluded.

Cameo Victor, the woman injured in Monday night’s fall, continues to recover at Elkhart General Hospital where she recently underwent surgery on a broken leg.

Councilman Osborne says he paid Victor a visit where she offered him forgiveness and said she does not plan to take any legal action.

NewsCenter 16 tried contacting the City of Elkhart, State of Indiana and the ADA Headquarters in Washington D.C., none of which offered any help in finding a solution to this matter. Had one entity stepped in, Victor most likely would never have been hospitalized.

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