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Court order requires 2013 courthouse access

by Brian Manning
WALSENBURG — On December 17, Claude W. Appel, Chief Judge Third Judicial District, issued an order to the Huerfano County Board of County Commissioners to provide access to the courthouse for everyone, including persons with disabilities, by January 2, 2013. This is required under state and federal law.
His order involves repairing the existing lift in front of the building or building a ramp and fixing the internal elevator.
Appel noted there have been numerous instances when people were unable to access the third floor courtroom for jury duty or other court proceedings. Deputies have had to carry people to the third floor up steep stairs, and there has been at least one injury when a person fell on the stairs and had to be removed by ambulance.
Huerfano County has been reported as having the oldest population in Colorado, and many residents are mobility impaired, so courthouse accessibility is important.
The judge learned the cost of windows, heating system upgrades, and the installation of automated lights is in excess of $300,000. The judge wondered why this money was not used for access for persons with disabilities. The court concluded the county is required to provide safe, adequate, and legally compliant access to the courts for all citizens.
Judge Appel’s order said that failure to comply with these terms on or before January 2, 2013 will result in a citation to appear and show cause why the Board of County Commissioners of Huerfano County should not be found in contempt of court, and why sanctions in the form of fines in the amount to be determined per day or other sanctions should not be imposed for failure to comply with the court’s order. The court has two jury trials scheduled for January 9, 2013.

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