BAKER — A Baker grocery store's lack of handicap-accessible parking or a fire lane has attracted one woman's concern.
Lorie Barker of Baker said she is upset that the Pic N Sav grocery store in Baker has no handicap parking; that's because her father is 78 years old, on oxygen and walks with a cane.
“They don’t have handicap parking, they don’t have a fire lane,” Barker said. “I have been trying for four years to try to get them to add a handicap spot.”
According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, all businesses must have handicap-accessible parking. If the total number of parking spaces in a parking facility is between one and 25, there is a minimum requirement of one handicap-accessible parking space. Pic N Sav has approximately 25 parking spots.
Accessible parking spaces must be identified by signs that include the International Symbol of Accessibility. Signs should be mounted so that the lower edge of the sign is at least 5 feet above the ground, which helps ensure visibility both for motorists and local enforcement officials, according to the act.
Local attorney Nathan Boyles said many businesses in the community predate the 1990 ADA and that Okaloosa County urges them to bring their facilities into compliance with the law. However, there are certain exemptions, like an excessive cost exemption that states businesses must provide accessible parking unless it would be a financial burden for the business owner.
Pic N Sav’s owner and store manager, Amy Cooper, said that this is the first she has heard about this concern, but she is happy to resolve it.
“I can’t say that anybody has ever brought this to my attention,” Cooper said. “We lease the building, so the building is not mine. I have zero problem going to obtain a sign and designate one of the spots on the side of the building; it’s absolutely not an issue. The volume of our business and the size of our parking lot, the accessibility to my knowledge has never been an issue for anybody.
“We are in the business of serving people. We’ll help them with groceries; we’ll even go get groceries for them… If somebody would have come to me about it, it wouldn’t have been a problem. I will absolutely do my best to [get] a sign and designate one of the spots.”
As for the lack of a fire lane, federal law states that the fire chief for the city, or a designee, in conjunction with the building official establishes fire lanes.
The chief of Baker Fire Department, Dusty Talbert, said that there is no fire lane in front of Pic N Sav because there is no space for one in the small parking lot.
“They could use a fire lane, but there is nowhere to put it,” Talbert said. “There’s a drive in and there’s a drive out; that’s all there is.
"Okaloosa County would handle that [regulation], but I’m pretty sure they deemed at the time that it wasn’t really an issue because there is nowhere to put one.”