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UPDATE: Independence officials decry steep post office steps, Finkenauer urges action

UPDATE: Independence officials decry steep post office steps, Finkenauer urges action

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INDEPENDENCE -- After "dozens" of people complained about their difficulties getting into the Independence Post Office, a congresswoman is getting involved.

U.S. Rep. Abby Finkenauer sent a letter Tuesday to the U.S. Access Board, which deals with accessibility at federal buildings, regarding the post office at 200 Second Ave. NE.

"The steps leading up to the post office's entrance have made it difficult and -- in some cases -- unsafe for individuals with physical impairments or disabilities to enter the building," Finkenauer sent in the letter to Karen Tamley, chair of the Access Board. "A basic accommodation, such as a ramp, could help avoid future injury."

In the letter, Finkenauer said her office "has heard from dozens of residents in Independence and the surrounding community" about a "need for a ramp at the entrance."

Three people have also sent complaints to the Access Board but were told that the Independence Post Office was "not found to be in violation of the Architectural Barriers Act of 1968," presumably due to the fact that the post office was built in 1934.

"The post office also sits on top of a steep hill, which makes the staircase the only way to access the front door," Finkenauer said in her letter. "This is a serious hazard and, last year, a local woman fell trying to enter the post office and had to be transported by ambulance."

Independence Postmaster Julie Rodnez referred all questions about the matter to the United States Postal Service, where a spokesperson noted the post office was "in full compliance with all federal law requirements regarding accessibility," according to USPS spokeswoman Erica Moss.

She said the post office was not considering a ramp, and added customers needing special accommodation are asked to call the office at 319-334-2495 for "curb service to the vehicle."

"Additionally, the Winthrop Post Office is 8 miles away, the Jesup Post Office is 9 miles away, and Hazleton is 10 miles away, and all are fully handicapped accessible," Moss wrote in an email to The Courier on Tuesday.

Independence Mayor Bonita Davis agreed with Finkenauer, calling accessibility "a major concern" she's tried to fix for years, she said in a release Tuesday from Finkenauer's office. Davis could not be reached by phone Tuesday for further comment.

"People have been injured trying to access the post office using the steps," Davis said in the release. "One can go to the back door and honk, but that is totally unacceptable. A post office in a town our size should be accessible."

Photos: Candidates in the Independence parade 2019

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