Downtown Washington, parking and handicap access to Sheriff’s Office

Published 1:09 pm Thursday, February 8, 2024

I think most everything Washington has done to downtown is wonderful.  It has truly turned Washington into a tourist destination and new things continue to happen.  When I go downtown or to the waterfront during the day, I see more people including tourists.  

One thing that’s really nice are all the stores and good restaurants. Our waterfront has really become special.  It’s a fun place to be.

My one concern is; all the improvements to the waterfront and Main Street have reduced the amount of available parking in downtown Washington.  Parking is only allowed on one side of Main Street now.  There are also apartments downtown that take up some of the available parking spaces.

Washington needs additional downtown parking.  I have no idea of how to do it; space is tight.  A parking building would be an expensive piece of infrastructure and tearing down buildings is probably not a solution.  Parking away from downtown is fine if you’re a walker.

When you’re young, you can do almost anything.  But when you get old, things can become very difficult.  Walking long distances becomes a concern and the handicapped may require a walker or wheelchair to get around.

I still get around fairly well but my wife does not.  We tend to avoid the downtown restaurants and eat at those that have close by parking.  I’m sure some other elderly people may feel the same way.  We actually would like to eat downtown because some of the restaurants are quite nice.  Parking is always a concern to any restaurant.

Parking in front of the Sheriff’s Office can also be a concern.  Often there is parking in front, but not always.  A handicapped parking space in front would be helpful.  That is only part of your trip into the building if you’re handicapped.

Once you get from your vehicle to the office door, there is no handicap entrance but there is a bell you can ring to get help from inside the sheriff’s office.  There are two doors to get through but can be handled with help.  With a wheelchair, It’s difficult; with a mobility scooter, it’s extremely difficult.

A handicap entrance at the Sheriff’s Office would be a needed improvement.

Once inside the office, you’re in a very small waiting area plus there is no public or handicap bathroom.  It’s a small confined space once it’s occupied by 6 or more visitors.  It really can’t be improved without major modification.  Basically, the sheriff’s office is an old building that used to be an auto dealership that once caught fire, and, contains an open elevator shaft in the middle of the building.

In 2018, the Washington City Police Building was flooded by Hurricane Florence and was deemed unusable.  A new modern building was built on Bridge Street.  The new building has lots of parking and in complete compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, International Fire Code and all OSHA guidelines.  It’s an asset to the city and everyone has the right to be proud of it. 

My point is; maybe it’s time to build a new Sheriff’s Office.

Al Klemm is a Washington resident and a former Beaufort County Commissioner.