Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Unfinished Ramp Leaves Woman Feeling Trapped; St. Louis Resident Was Told the Wheelchair Ramp Would Take Two Days to Build - That Was Two Months Ago

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Unfinished Ramp Leaves Woman Feeling Trapped; St. Louis Resident Was Told the Wheelchair Ramp Would Take Two Days to Build - That Was Two Months Ago

Article excerpt

ST. LOUIS - Most days, Clara Elam sits in a chair near her front door, fearful there will be an emergency and someone will need to rescue her from her home.

Elam, 79, retired five years ago after teaching in St. Louis schools for nearly five decades. In June, health problems including diabetes forced her into the hospital and she was told she would need a wheelchair to get around.

She then spent time in a rehabilitation facility to adjust to her disability, and hired a contractor to install a wheelchair ramp outside her quaint St. Louis home, a project she was told would take two days.

But nearly two months later, the project remains unfinished, and Elam says she feels trapped in her own home.

"I don't sleep well at night because I feel something might happen," she said.

She says she has cancelled doctors appointments and hasn't attended Mass or choir since being confined to her home. If she wants to leave, she must depend on neighbors, hire people to carry her out or call an ambulance. Two relatives who live with her try to help out, but they can't always be there and aren't able to carry her out of her home.

The contractor, James Costello, 55, of C and C Construction, acknowledges that the wheelchair ramp is in limbo. But he points out that he was hired after a previous builder failed to complete the project. That carpenter backed out when his original ramp was deemed unsafe and the job proved too big for him.

Costello said rainy weather, a dispute with city inspectors because he didn't get a permit for the project and arguments with Elam's family members have slowed him down.

He insists he is not taking advantage of Elam, and says he isn't making a profit on the project, which he agreed to complete for $1,100. She has paid him several hundred dollars, but none of that has gone in his pocket, he said.

"She has not paid me a dime," Costello said. …

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