Town adopts policy on serving individuals with disabilities


August 13, 2009
WOLFEBORO — At its Aug. 5 meeting the Wolfeboro Board of Selectmen adopted, with minor revisions, a "Policy on Accommodations to Individuals with Disabilities" drafted by Town Manager Dave Owen.

The policy grew out of a July 15 letter by John J. Farley, Assistant U.S. Attorney, responding to Owen's June 15 report on the town's efforts to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). In that letter Owen reported that town's decision to discontinue using the Town Hall Meeting Room, which was not ADA compliant and lacked bathroom facilities, and to hold meetings only in spaces that were ADA compliant.

Farley wrote, "The Town's new practice of holding meetings of Town Boards and Committees in accessible locations is a very good way of providing program accessibility and I encourage you to continue that practice. You also have advised me that the Town has an informal policy of providing program accessibility for services that are available at Town Hall. I suggest that the Town adopt a formal policy in this regard and publicize it to members of the community so that citizens are aware of the Town's willingness to ensure program accessibility." In his letter Farley provide a sample policy for Owen to review.

Wolfeboro's new policy states:

"The Wolfeboro Town Offices at Brewster Memorial Hall are not physically accessible to individuals with mobility impairments. In accordance with Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Town staff will, during normal business hours, make alternative arrangements upon request for persons with mobility impairments so that they can have access to the documents or services required.

"These alternative arrangements include:

"- We can provide documents and services to individuals who contact us by telephone or e-mail.

"- We can meet with individuals outside the building or at a designated alternative location to receive or deliver documents, payments, etc.

"- If you have access to a computer with internet access, we can assist you in how to locate certain records via the town's Web site.

"- Document searches will be provided upon request for individuals who are unable to get into the building.

"- The town will not impose any extra surcharges or fees to cover the costs of providing accommodations to individuals with disabilities.

"Any individual with a disability who requires an accommodation, as described above in the policy, should contact the relevant Town Department with their request by telephone or e-mail. If there are any complaints about this policy or the accommodations provided pursuant to it, please contact the Town Manager's Office by telephone at 603-569-8161 or by e-mail at wolftwnmgr@metrocast.net."

Farley reviewed and approved the draft policy on July 29.

While adopting the new policy demonstrates that the town is dealing with ADA issues, Farley's July 15 letter lists 12 other compliance issues that remain open. These relate to problems found during a 2006 inspection in the library, the Public Safety Building, the Firehouse Museum and Clark House, the Community Center, Dockside Grille and Town Hall. Farley asked that Owen confirm that the issues are still open and identify which will not be addressed by the end of 2009.

At the end of his letter Farley raises the possibility of the Justice Department entering into a written agreement with the town that would commit the town to a timetable for addressing the remaining outstanding issues in return for resolving the government's ADA investigation.

Whether it is possible for the town to come up with such a timetable at this point, given the open question of what to do about town offices, remains to be seen.

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Salmon Press
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