Step added to tricky staircase at Augusta courthouse

Charlene Crank walks down the stairs at the Augusta-Richmond County Judicial Building and John H. Ruffin Jr. Courthouse. A step was added to prevent falls.

Visitors to the Augusta-Richmond County Judicial Building and John H. Ruffin Jr. Courthouse might have noticed a subtle difference Monday at the foot of the staircase leading up to the second floor.

Last weekend, a yellow step was added between the white base of the steps and the red terrazzo floor.

It’s a long-awaited change after yellow caution tape kept visitors from making a potentially dangerous misstep off the base of the stairs for more than a year.

The Richmond County marshals who screen incoming visitors first noticed visitors and employees taking tumbles soon after the courthouse opened in April 2011. Exactly what caused people to miss that last step remains a mystery; the associate architect of the courthouse measured the steps and confirmed that they were built to code.

Officials’ best guess is that the white floor created some sort of optical illusion. Security camera footage also showed most of the spills occurred when people were looking down at paperwork or their cellphone.

Tom Gunnels, a superior court administrator, said Tuesday that the extra step and two handrails that will be added soon should solve the problem.

Officials plan redesign to stop stumbles on courthouse steps

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