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New courthouse
steps don’t pass test

ADA and county's own codes are violated

by Dave Kinnamon
Landmark reporter

Platte County recently invested $20,000 to have the steps on the south side of the Platte County courthouse refurbished.

Problem is: The job was “completed” without meeting several areas of codes.

One particular deficiency actually makes the new stairs not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (1990), according to Gale Cantu, county codes enforcement officer.

The very top concrete stair has more than a two percent slope to it. The slope on the stair currently is four percent. ADA mandates the slope must be two percent or less.

“That step will have to be corrected so that the slope is two percent or less,” Cantu said.

The correction will make the new courthouse stairs ADA compliant, she said.

Another problem with the new stairs, according to Cantu, is that the solitary handrail, going up and down the middle of the stairs, is not 34-38 inches tall at many places.

According to the 2000 International Building Code, which Cantu uses as her authority on building codes specifications, handrails must have a height of at least 34 inches and must not be higher than 38 inches.

Cantu does not yet know whether the county will have to install a new handrail in the same location or if workers can manipulate the borings, in which the rail is emplaced, to force the rail to sit up to the required 34-38 inches all the way down.

The county may be faced with totally replacing that handrail, Cantu acknowledged.

The south side steps of the courthouse job originally went out for bid in March 2004, according to the county clerk’s office. The county received three bids (from Platte Valley Construction, RDS Bobcat Construction, and MTS Contracting, Inc.), ranging in total cost from a low bid of $7,450, from MTS, to a high bid of $20,715, from Platte Valley Construction.

All three bids were formally rejected by the Platte County commissioners at their meeting on Oct. 21, 2004.

The commissioners then put the stairs refurbishment project back out for bid in April 2005. This time the county received only one bid, from M & M Total Construction, at an announced cost of $9,128, according to the county clerk’s office, and awarded the job to M & M. The county later approved change orders that raised the cost of the total project to an amount over and above the original approved bid.

One previous bidder, Richard Coons, is miffed that the city selected M & M. Coons believes that he and other contractors were not given proper notification to submit new bids for the stairs.

Further, Coons said Platte Valley’s original bid included an option to run piping through all the stairs, which could have regulated the steps to a constant 34 degrees Fahrenheit during winter time. This temperature regulation would have kept the stairs free of snow and ice, thus saving the concrete from weather wear, Koons said.

The recently finished courthouse stairs do not have temperature-regulating pipes inside them.

The heating option would have only cost the county an additional $900 approximately, Coons said.

The stairs should have also been poured in one giant, or “monolithic,” pour of the concrete instead of the piecemeal approach that was used, Coons said. The piecemeal pour makes the stairs appear to be uneven, he said.

The stairs also fail compliance codes in that the ends, by the cannons, are more than 30 inches off of grade, Cantu said. That violation will require the county to install vertical spindle assemblies and attached guard rails, Cantu said.

Also, the stairs don’t meet “egress” mandates from the universal building codes. Natural flow of pedestrian traffic necessitates that a second and a third guardrail be installed near the other entry/exit doors of the courthouse, Cantu said.

The county plans to fix as many of the compliance violations with county staff as possible and will bid out the remaining jobs.



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