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Joyce Endee

Wolfeboro selectmen warned about ADA compliance

by Thomas Beeler
Editor of The Granite State News
August 23, 2012
WOLFEBORO — Wolfeboro resident Bobby Hanson, who had filed the complaint about the town's lack of compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act in 2005, told selectmen on Aug. 15 about his frustrations trying to get the town to address current ADA issues.

"I have spoken with the Justice Department about the lack of response and they have advised me to file another complaint in Washington," Hanson said. "I'd rather see the problems addressed here and fixed."

The first issue Hanson raised was the lack of an ADA-compliant bathroom in Town Hall. The town has not had a public bathroom in Town Hall for some time, but the lack of a handicapped accessible public bathroom makes the public meeting room non-compliant, despite the addition of ramps last year that made it wheelchair accessible. "There should be no meetings in Town Hall until the meeting room is ADA compliant."

Hanson added that he went to Town Hall a week ago and noted that, in addition to the lack of a public ADA bathroom, counters where people pay bills were all above the level of someone in a wheelchair and there was not enough space in front of the Town Clerk's counter for a wheelchair to turn. These problems, along with the as-yet-uncorrected handicap parking spaces at Town Hall, were identified by Cheryl Killam, the former disability specialist for the State of New Hampshire, when she investigated Hanson's original complaint years ago. "The town is not supposed to be using space that is not accessible," Hanson emphasized.

A second issue Hanson has been trying to get addressed were the signs at the entrances to hiking and bike paths completed last year by Pathways of Wolfeboro on land owned by the town and the Lakes Region Conservation Trust. The signs state, "No Motorized Vehicles," a blanket exclusion not allowed by ADA since it would ban use of electric powered wheelchairs as well as other powered mobility devices used by the handicapped.

In trying to get someone from Pathways of Wolfeboro to respond to this sign issue Hanson found that there is no such legal entity as "Pathways of Wolfeboro." Yet a check he wrote to Pathways was accepted by the Wentworth Economic Development Corp, which is acting as the group's fiscal agent. He warned that the town was liable for any issues that arose in connection with Pathways and cited the case of the outdoor skating rink in North Conway which may have to be closed due to liability and other issues.

He said that Pathways has done a lot of good but needs to address the sign issue.

Other issues

Later, at the end of the meeting, Hanson took advantage of the second Public Comment period at the Aug. 15 meeting to add three more ADA issues.

The first was Mast Landing, which Hanson said was overlooked in the original investigation. Despite having a handicap parking space, the landing is inaccessible to someone in a wheelchair van because the entrance way crosses the rail bed, which causes vehicles to bottom out.

The second issue concerned the new sidewalk on the Bradley's Hardware side of Railroad Avenue and Depot Square, which is too narrow to allow a wheelchair to pass due mainly to the front ends of parked vehicles intruding into the sidewalk. There is also no crosswalk from the curb cut at the end of the sidewalk to the railroad station. Hanson said he had pointed out these problems to Public Works Director Dave Ford but has yet to receive a reply.

At that point Selectman Dave Bowers pointed out the soon-to-be-opened Front Bay Park, which he said only one of seven designed for wheelchair access. "It will put Wolfeboro on the map," he said.

Hanson acknowledged that the park itself was beautiful but that there are no sidewalks on Bay Street (where the entrance is) and the sidewalks into town on Elm Street are very narrow.

Hanson's third issue was with how Bill Todesco, who has a town license to sell from a food cart by Spencer Hughes on Main Street, has set himself up in a way that blocks using the passenger-side door in the handicapped parking spot. Todesco also parks his truck in the adjacent handicapped spot and, while he has a disability placard, he leaves it there all day.

Town Manager Dave Owen responded to the last comment by saying that a disability placard exempts the holder from parking time limit.

Selectman Chair Linda Murray said the board would look into the issues raised.

Martin Lord Osman
Salmon Press
Garnett HIll
Varney Smith
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