City to pay $600K to make courthouse handicapped accessible

Officials, contractor had been at odds over who should pay cost

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The city is getting ready to pay about $600,000 to make the $350 million courthouse accessible to everyone.

Since it opened in June, there has been an issue with handicapped accessibility. Turner Construction, which contracted the courthouse, and the city have been at odds over who is responsible and who should pay to make it right.

Allen Morris, who uses a walker, was trying to open the door to leave the courthouse Thursday, and it was difficult for him to maneuver to try and push the door open, then go outside. He needed someone to help.

"There is not a whole lot that can be done, maybe as far as someway to let somebody know that you are there and having a problem and somebody would be inside and open up," Morris said.

Since the courthouse opened, people in wheelchairs haven't been able to get around because the doors are too difficult to open and access is limited, even though Duval County taxpayers paid millions of dollars to build the new facility.

During a meeting Wednesday of the courthouse oversight committee, city officials said they are giving in and will spend contingency money and pay to have 100-200 automatic doors installed throughout the courthouse, including those doors leading into courtrooms.

"We really need more electronic doors with the push buttons on it," Betty Whyche said.

Whyche, who is in a wheelchair, says it's only fair because the courthouse is for everyone. She said it's a problem if disabled people can't get in a courtroom to take care of their affairs.

The installation of the doors is expected to be complete in six months.

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