For Councilman Steve Grams, accessibility was the first issue that drew him into civic involvement in St. Peter.

It has remained a top priority, “because I deal with it every day,” but “I’m cautious to not be a one-pony show,” Grams said.

Grams is running for a second term to represent Ward II, the South Ward. Election Day is Nov. 7.

“I ran initially because I was retired and I really liked living in St. Peter,” he said. “I said, ‘I have all this experience and knowledge I’ve picked up through 30 years in my working career, I have to do something with it.’”

He followed the council meetings for two years before running, making suggestions on accessibility issues for the elderly and those who use wheelchairs, as he does. Even still, once he was on the council, the learning curve was steep, he said.

He praised the bus service, which was “the first thing that really impressed me.” He started by serving on several task forces to specifically address accessibility, including on a facilities task force for the school district and the task force that designed a new pavilion for Minnesota Square Park.

“Anyone with mobility issues or seniors were always sitting below” at the pavilion, Grams said.

Whether considering apartments for the city-owned Parking Lot No. 5 or houses for Traverse Green, the City Council has asked for accessible or universal design options, now not prompted by Grams.

“We really have a good group of council representatives right now,” Grams said. “They’re open to ideas about things and accommodating the needs of so many people, such as the East Africans in the community who are trying to adapt to our community and society.”

The council has a lot of projects developing over the next few years, including the pavilion. With a $200,000 promise through the state’s Legacy Fund, the council wants to move so the city doesn’t lose that money.

Grams said, “It’s time to do something at the same time with the veterans memorial,” which is under construction.

And there’s a great need for a new Fire Hall, he said.

“And City Hall should be looked at, whether it gets remodeled or a new one is built,” Grams said. “The bathrooms are not accessible and it’s tight. The Police Department is crammed in there.”

He would like to see more economic development and interest from businesses in becoming accessible.

Grams said there are other city assets he’d like to see used more. The parks are due for an upgrade, likely coming when the city pays off the community center bonds.

“We have a beautiful river area and it’s so underutilized,” he said. “People could come and enjoy the community and enjoy potential activities that would be available if we used the river more.”

Reach Associate Editor Nancy Madsen at 507-931-8568 or follow her on @SPHnancy.

Nancy Madsen has written for newspapers in Watertown, N.Y., and Mankato, as well as for PolitiFact Virginia at the Richmond Times-Dispatch in Richmond, Va. Nancy is a graduate of Wheaton College in Wheaton, Ill., and Syracuse University in Syracuse, N.Y.

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