Department of Justice proposes ADA settlement to Wolfeboro
May 20, 2010
WOLFEBORO — On April 15 U.S. Attorney John J. Farley sent a letter to Wolfeboro Town Manager David Owen, enclosing a draft agreement that would settle the Department of Justice complaint against the town for violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
As required by the act to initiate an investigation, Wolfeboro resident Bobby Hanson filed a complaint alleging discrimination on the basis of disability in August 2005, and on Sept. 1, 2005 the Department of Justice opened case NH 204-47-54 on behalf of Hanson, assigning Attorney Farley to the investigation. Since then the Department of Justice has conducted two investigations, an initial inspection in May 2006 that verified Hanson's claims about lack of access to public buildings and restroom facilities and lack of ADA-compliant parking spaces, and a followup inspection in October 2008.
For its part the town, with the support of voters, has made improvements to the library, Community Center, Dockside Restaurant, and Railroad Station to provide handicap access and ADA-compliant bathrooms. In 2010 voters also approved improvements to the Pop Whalen Ice Arena and the Public Safety Building to comply with ADA, and the $110,000 in improvements to Brewster Hall will allow handicap access for the first time.
In light of the progress made, the Department of Justice proposes to settle the complaint and "to refrain from filing a civil suit in this matter," provided the town agrees to complete the listed Remedial Actions and report in writing on progress by Jan. 31, 2011 and Jan. 31, 2012, by which later date it is assumed that all remedial actions will have been taken.
Specific remedial actions still to be done are as follows:
Depot Square: to repave/resurface the parking lot to ensure that accessible parking spots and aisles are level.
Cate Park: to ensure that the walkway on the upper level is accessible with a cross slope no great than 1:50 and to install at least one accessible seating area on upper and lower levels; and to ensure that the lower level walkway is accessible, firm, stable and slip-resistant.
Clark Park and Museum Complex: to repave/resurface the parking lot to make sure that accessible parking spots are level and compliant and that all walkways are upgraded and compliant; to install ramps at the entrances and exits of all complex buildings, making sure the doors are of proper width and have compliant hardware.
Community Center: to correct the slopes of the sidewalk in front of the center.
Dockside Parking Lot: to repave/resurface the parking lot to ensure that accessible parking spots and access aisles are level and ensure that the surface is firm, stable, and slip resistant.
Libby Museum: to correct the slopes of the van-accessible parking space, aisle and route from that space.
Library: to correct the slopes of the accessible parking spaces, aisles and routes from those spaces.
Pop Whalen Ice Arena: to install an accessible toilet room by Jan. 31, 2011.
Public Safety Building: to repave/resurface the parking lot to ensure that accessible parking spots and access aisles are level and ensure that the surface is firm, stable, and slip resistant; and to make the men's and women's bathrooms accessible byproviding accessible signage, an accessible door, adequate maneuvering space, an accessible toilet, and an accessible lavatory.
Town Hall: the town agrees that any newly-constructed or renovated building shall comply with the requirements of the ADA and it shall consult with the United States and provide proposed plans for review and approval. By Jan. 31, 2012 the town will also ensure that the parking lots for Town Hall provide at least three accessible parking spaces (including at least one van-accessible parking space) and to repave/resurface the parking lot and make changes to the routes from the rear parking lot and Union Street to ensure that accessible parking spots and access aisles are level and ensure that the surface is firm, stable, and slip resistant. The town will also replace door hardware with ADA-compliant fixtures.
The settlement also stipulates installing "an accessible toilet room at the Brewster Beach and Carry Beach beachhouses." Voters rejected a warrant article in March that would have done this. Instead the town will be renting ADA-compliant portable toilets for those beaches. Whether that is acceptable to the Department of Justice is yet to be determined.
The largest of the projects still to be done is making Town Hall completely accessible. Recently the board of selectmen agreed to work with the Friends of Wolfeboro Town Hall to come up with a cost-effective renovation plan for Brewster Memorial Hall to prospose to voters next March. As noted in the proposed agreement, any plans would have to be reviewed and approved by the Department of Justice.
As of this writing, the board of selectmen has not publicly discussed the proposed settlement or approved it.