UPDATE: Rochester City officials released the following statement to KTTC Friday afternoon.
“The handicap spots were removed for construction on May 1 and moved to 1st St SE at the east end by Civic Center Drive (this is the closest on street location to the library entrance). The area was converted to a deliver only, as the library’s deliveries all came to the entrance on 1st AVE SE, which is now completely closed for construction. It can also be used to load the bookmobile. It is not safe to have any parking along that portion of 2nd Street during construction. Handicap spots are available in all the area ramps and safe access from the ramps to the library via the skyways are available. Once the 1st Avenue SE segment of the project is opened up, we will add additional parking along that street.”
ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) – The battle for space to park in downtown Rochester can be a struggle, and it gets worse as various construction projects take up street spaces. A new project by the library is one of those projects and it’s lead to friction with one library user.
Paula Hardin of Rochester spent years at the podium advocating for access rights. She says reading at the Rochester Public Library is one of few things she’s still able to do since her Multiple Sclerosis diagnosis. But with construction, the only two handicap permit spots along 2nd St. SE in front of the library have been removed.
The city’s Public Works Department said the handicapped spots were moved to 1st St SE at the east end by Civic Center Drive, the closest on-street location to the library entrance.
Hardin and other advocates say parking for individuals with disabilities is already scarce, making everyday tasks a constant battle.
“That makes it very difficult for anybody,” said Hardin. “I mean people with heart conditions, lung conditions, arthritis, back problems. It isn’t just about the distance to some place, you have to be able to walk and stand at the place, and you have to be able to get back to your car.”
Hardin voiced her concerns Monday night at the city council meeting about the parking spots. When she visited the library the next day, she was shocked to find handicapped signs replaced with permanent metal signs stating “Library deliveries only” and “tow away” zone.
Hardin says the situation is likely to get worse with more baby boomers moving into their senior years and more patients visiting the city.
KTTC reached out to library officials for comment but they referred us to the city’s public works department. We have not been able to make contact with them yet but will continue to follow up.