Accessibility for disabled to cost towns thousands NORTH -- Manchester * Hampstead * Lineboro

April 21, 1993|By Katherine Richards | Katherine Richards,Staff Writer

Hampstead and Manchester may be forced to spend thousands of dollars in coming years to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, town officials said.

Town Manager John A. Riley said a compliance plan for Hampstead was finished April 15, and the town is not too far from where it needs to be.

The Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA, requires local governments to ensure programs and facilities are accessible to people with disabilities.

Also, municipalities must ensure that their hiring practices do not discriminate against people with disabilities.

"It's a complaint-oriented law," he said. Nobody is going around and inspecting to see if towns are making progress on ADA work, he said, but if someone complains, the town could be subject to lawsuits.

"Certainly, some of the changes are very expensive," he said. "But you have to have some plan."

The Hampstead compliance plan calls for the town to spend up to $13,200 in fiscal 1994-1995 to bring the town offices and the town meeting room into compliance with ADA requirements.

Another $8,500 in spending is planned for fiscal 1994-1995, to bring the Hampstead Swimming Pool and Melvin Miller Park into compliance.

Under the plan, the costs will be paid out of the town's capital budget.

In the town offices and the meeting room, Mr. Riley said, door handles must be replaced with lever-type handles. Bathrooms must be redesigned, including insulation for exposed pipes under sinks. Fixtures such as a water cooler, a coat rack and a counter must be lowered.

The ramp to the town meeting room needs to be rebuilt, he said, and that will require moving a door.

In addition, the town must designate parking spaces for the handicapped.

At the swimming pool, a ramp must be built. Handicapped parking must be provided at both the pool and the park.

If the town resurfaces any roads, or builds any new ones, they must comply with the ADA. That means there must be curb cuts for wheelchairs at intersections with crosswalks.

Mr. Riley said Sycamore Drive will be resurfaced in the coming year, and that work will have to meet ADA requirements.

Manchester Town Manager Terry Short said Monday he did not know how much Manchester will have to spend to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Paul Kolar, Manchester's former clerk-treasurer, handled ADA matters for the town. He resigned in March to take a job in York, Pa., and his position has not been filled.

Manchester will need to rebuild the ramp at the Town Hall. It is narrow and lacks a rim to keep a wheelchair's wheels from going off the edge.

Mr. Short said Manchester may have to rebuild other facilities, such as restrooms in the parks.

"This could kill any park expansion," he said. "It would just make the parks too expensive to build."

At the Manchester Town Council budget work session April 13, the council decided to transfer $10,000 out of its operating reserves to a fund for ADA-related work.

Mr. Short said the town is not planning to repave any roads this year that have sidewalks and would have to meet ADA regulations.

He said the town is looking at writing new job descriptions for town employees, to comply with ADA guidelines.

"If the job description isn't written properly," he said, "they could sue you if you didn't hire them."

Jonathan Magruder, staff associate for research with the Maryland Municipal League, said, "I don't think anyone should panic over the law."

The law's intent, he said, was not to punish local governments for noncompliance, but to make them aware of the issues and get them started.

"They should be working on it now," he said. "We're looking really to a 1995 deadline for making your facilities accessible."

When Mr. Short was asked if he was concerned about Manchester being sued because of facilities that are inaccessible to the handicapped, he said, "It's not likely, but you've got to consider it."

Also, he said, it's a matter of doing what's right. That consideration must be balanced against the cost of the changes, he said.

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