Commissioner highlights impact of snowy sidewalks on the disabled

Snowy sidewalk.jpg
Posted at 5:48 PM, Feb 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-18 23:10:44-05

MUSKEGON, Mich. — Bob Scolnik's says his wife, Merle, depends on a wheelchair to get around. Saturday night, he says they went to the Frauenthal Center to see a show. However, he says getting across the snow-covered sidewalk and to the door presented a challenge. Scolnik says if it wasn't for a young man who stopped to help wheel Merle, they would've had even greater difficulty getting to the door.

"When I got home, ya know, I'm kind of mad about it and I suppose I could've ignored it. But I didn't want to ignore it. I wanted to let people know that that needs to be better," Scolnik said.

"There was some criticism," he said.

Scolnik says critics replied with, 'Well, now you see the problem because it's you.'"

"People who have been handicap for their whole lives, ya know, been in wheelchairs... maybe forever and they're dealing with this everyday of the week," he said.

Scolnik, who happens to be a county commissioner, says the experience is eye opening and says he had to drive up on the curb to get Merle into his vehicle after the show. He's calling attention to an issue that affects many in the community.

"The problem goes deeper because the whole downtown is like that. It's not just the Frauenthal Theatre, but the Frauenthal should really set an example in my opinion and just clean the curb cuts and the sidewalks. But the whole downtown needs some help," he said.

"I don't know how that's going to be fixed, but there's got to be a way to do it," Scolnik said.

City manager Frank Peterson says he doesn't disagree with Scolnik's assessment. He says enforcement could be better. He says the ordinance, however, gives businesses time to remove snow and says it was snowing up until the performance that night.

Upon request, Frauenthal Center executive director Eric Messing sent FOX 17 the following statement.

"The Frauenthal Center has a long standing relationship with Bob. Having produced events here in the past, he is a valuable voice as a patron. While this is the first time he has expressed accessibility concerns to us, we always appreciate feedback from community members about their experience at the Frauenthal Center and take the accessibility of our patrons very seriously. We are continually monitoring the sidewalks and entry points to the theater but do acknowledge there is room for improvement. "

When this issue was brought to our attention on social media, we took immediate action with our facility operations team. We learned that the sidewalks were shoveled and salted on the night in question, but they did need additional, more frequent attention with the given weather conditions. The next day, we were expecting hundreds of patrons for our new free family movie day series, so I personally came to assess the sidewalk and entry points. We care very much that all our patrons are able to enjoy this beautiful facility.

Yesterday, the facility operations team was actively removing snow/ice from the curbside to allow for barrier-free street parking, as well as frequent salting of the sidewalk. Looking forward, we are adjusting internal snow removal procedures and will have additional designated handicapped accessible parking during events.

We have spoken with the City of Muskegon and our neighboring businesses on the block and will continue to work together to address accessibility and snow removal concerns throughout downtown. We’re here to serve the entire community, and we want to ensure this is a safe, accessible, and welcoming place. We’ll continue to work with the city and community partners to make that a reality."