County Fairgrounds Making Accessibility Improvements in Response to Lawsuit

The Kosciusko County fairgrounds is in the process of a makeover after a Warsaw woman filed a lawsuit in September.
Kathy Meeker, Warsaw, filed a lawsuit because the fair is not compliant with wheelchair accessibility. Meeker’s attorney, Kelly Eskew, said Meeker is cooperatively working with the fairgrounds.
“Both sides have agreed to resolve issues informally and cooperatively,” Eskew said.
Eskew said so far, they are both very pleased with the progress. She also said Meeker loves the fair and just wants everyone to have access to it. She said further progress must be reported to the court by May 20. Eskew said they would have preferred not to file a lawsuit, but lawsuits provide a way to get things done.
“We’re trying to problem solve,” Eskew said.
Kosciusko County Fair Board President Tony Zimmerman said they spent $40,000 for a certified Americans with Disabilities Act inspection and they found a “whole book of stuff.” The list includes a variety of issues such as some areas are too steep, doorknob violations, building height issues, building entry inclines, restroom accommodations and the gravel throughout the fairgrounds also must be changed.
Zimmerman said Meeker made complaints to the board a few years ago. She also wants more handicapped parking and access to the memorial garden.
Due to limited finances, Zimmerman said they plan to start repairing the smaller issues they have the funds for, beginning with the restrooms. He said the board is planning fundraisers, and he hopes to receive help from the community to fund all of the necessary changes. An estimate for the total cost for all of the repairs is $2 million to $3 million.
“It’s all going to have to be done,” Zimmerman said. “We want to make it better.” 
He said the lawsuit does not only affect the fair and board, but it also affects the 4H Shriners and food stands. He said everyone has been cooperative and they are all working together to create a plan that will meet the court and Meeker’s approval. 
“We drew up something, and it has to be approved by everyone,” Zimmerman said. “When you get a lot of people involved, it takes a lot of time. We’re still in negotiations and reviewing what we can do this year and next year.”
The lawsuit isn’t stalling plans for the upcoming fair. Zimmerman said they have big plans for the fair this year, and especially next year to celebrate its 100th year. He said there is a full line of entertainment for this year, and there will be a Riley Hospital for Children benefit the weekend of May 8 and 9 with a Kansas City barbecue competition.
“I don’t think that was [Meeker’s] intention, to shut down the fair,” Zimmerman said. “We are open, and we will be open.”

(Story By The Times Union)