- Associated Press - Thursday, November 12, 2015

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - A plan to build a wheelchair ramp outside the Virginia Executive Mansion is turning into a tussle between Gov. Terry McAuliffe and former first lady Roxane Gilmore.

Gilmore, the wife of former governor and current Republican presidential candidate Jim Gilmore, has circulated a letter among historic preservationists in which she characterizes the planned ramp as unnecessarily intrusive on the nation’s oldest continuously occupied governor’s residence, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports (https://bit.ly/1MLQBRy).

The governor and first lady Dorothy McAuliffe announced the ramp project last month, calling it an improvement on the Richmond mansion’s existing method of wheelchair access: an elevator from the basement.

“This is a question of being a good steward to one of Virginia’s historic landmarks,” Gilmore, first lady from 1998 to 2002, said in an interview. “Speaking as a former resident, it is your home while you’re there, but it’s kind of temporary. It doesn’t really belong to you. It belongs to the people of the commonwealth.”

The governor’s office has said the proposed ramp fits the mansion’s aesthetic and will be built in accordance with federal standards for historic properties.

When the ramp project was announced, it was praised by the heads of state agencies that assist people with disabilities and military veterans.

“The governor and the first lady are committed to making the people’s executive mansion as accessible as possible to all Virginians, especially people with disabilities and wounded warriors,” McAuliffe spokesman Brian Coy said. “They believe that making it possible to enter on the first floor is a good step in demonstrating Virginia’s commitment to accessibility.”

Work on the ramp is expected to start later this year and finish by early 2016. Officials have not yet released a cost estimate.

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Information from: Richmond Times-Dispatch, https://www.timesdispatch.com

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