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Staff Photo by Grant Morris

Larry Lemmon stands next to his truck and the handicapped parking sign that has not been replaced since he backed over it in the parking lot of East Ridge Village in Merrimack in October. Frequently Lemmon is having to call the police to have vehicles moved so that he can park in the space which is located just outside of his door.
Saturday, March 26, 2011

Handicapped sign stays down for months

MERRIMACK – The handicapped parking sign lying at the foot of Larry Lemmon’s Merrimack home grew rusted over the winter, and Lemmon had grown restless.

So, after months of waiting for managers of the East Ridge Condominiums to replace the sign, which he said he accidentally knocked over in the fall, Lemmon – who uses crutches to get around because of a lifelong leg condition – took the matter into his own hands, re-posting the sign Friday with the help of a family member.

Lemmon said he addressed the issue soon after he backed into the sign in October. But administrators from Harvard Property Services of Merrimack, which oversees the condominium complex, neglected to replace the sign. The winter cold left the ground frozen and difficult to work, according to property manager Patty Ford, so they’re waiting for the ground to thaw.

“It’s standard procedure,” she said.

But while they waited, Lemmon, 41, was left to grapple with neighbors and visitors who parked in the spot, denying him direct access to his condo unit, he said.

“My legs don’t work that great, but my eyes do,” said Lemmon, who has lived in the condominium complex since 2003. “I see what’s happening. … They’re just putting me off.”

While Lemmon waited for Harvard Property to post the sign, he looked to local police to help.

He said he placed calls to the Merrimack Police Department several times a month, asking them to remove a vehicle parked in the spot, which sits directly in front of his condominium unit.

Merrimack Police declined to comment on Lemmon’s reports, but Capt. Peter Albert said the department typically takes about one call per month about a handicapped parking violation.

A majority of the calls regard apartment or condominium complexes, Albert said, and officers usually respond to the scene, talking to the reporting party and the accused driver before asking that the car be moved.

“We like to hear all sides of a story,” he said. “Sometimes you find out that although they don’t have a (handicapped) placard, you may have a person come out wearing a cast or have a medical issue. They just don’t have the necessary paperwork yet to park there legally.”

Beyond local police, Lemmon’s situation could reach the level of federal law, as well, according to legal professionals.

The federal Fair Housing Act requires property managers to make “reasonable accommodations in rules, policies, practices, or services, when such accommodations may be necessary to afford a handicapped person equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling unit.”

And although the law doesn’t dictate the time period for such accommodations, federal statutes are generally interpreted to require that a “reasonable time and/or an interim measure be used,” said Attorney Richard Cohen, executive director of the Disabilities Rights Center of New Hampshire.

Cohen declined to comment directly on Lemmon’s case without knowing more specifics about the situation.

Now that the weather is turning warmer, Harvard Property has put in an order for a new sign, and workers plan to post it once the sign arrives, Ford said.

But Lemmon beat them to it, installing the sign with the help of his father.

“They kept saying ‘in a few days, in a few days.’ ” Lemmon said. “They’ve been saying that since October.”

Jake Berry can be reached at 594-6402 or