Disabled veteran has to jump through hoops to keep ramp

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Albany, Illinois-- A Korean veteran says he was finally able to get out of his house easily after the VA in Iowa City paid to have a ramp installed at his home.

"It felt good to be able to walk out and not have to worry about falling," Willis McRell says.

McRell fell and injured his back when he was serving in the Korean War. The pain has stuck with him, making it harder and harder for him to get around.

But earlier this year, he says the VA paid to have a ramp installed outside his house, making it easier for him to get in and out. McRell says on the good days, he can get out his front door and walk through the neighborhood a bit.

"It felt good too to be able to walk out and not have to worry about falling," he says.

McRell says National Ramp installed the ramp, saying they didn't need a permit. But last month, the McRell got a letter.

"The city came back later and said that we did need one," his daughter Marleen says. "I was very upset."

The Village of Albany also informed the McRell that the ramp was violating a village ordinance because it was built too close to the road.

"There's a reason for it," Public Works Director Nathan Schroeder says. "I just want the homeowner to be legal and be safe, that he can keep [the ramp] there."

But there's a lengthy process ahead to make Willis' ramp legal.

First, public works had to receive a permit application, even after the ramp had been built. Schroeder then denied the application, since the ramp was built too close to the road.

That starts a process called variance. The village zoning board will interview neighbors for input about the ramp since it breaks the ordinance. Then the board can recommend that the village board make an exception.

Schroeder says he doesn't expect any neighbor complaints to stop McRell from getting an exception.

"That's the most accessible ADA for him," Schroeder says. "We just have to go through the proper procedures to get it done."

But McRell says he's still worried things could go wrong and his ramp will have to be removed. The variance will take about a month.

News 8 reached out to National Ramp to find out why the company didn't know it needed this permit but did not hear back as of Wednesday night.

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