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Published: Thursday, 2/7/2002

$250,000 in repairs to ramps concludes

BY MIKE JONES
BLADE STAFF WRITER

A five-stage project to bring Sylvania's sidewalk ramps into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act has concluded after an expense of about $250,000.

Although the city has made the required corrections on ramps installed since 1992, administrators and council members have said they will continue to install ramps or correct deficiencies “because it's the right thing to do,” Jeffrey Ballmer, city services director, said.

Mr. Ballmer said some of the total cost can be attributed to other sidewalk work done near the ramps that was necessary, but not specifically ramp repair.

“It was work we needed to do, and we were there,” he said, but most of the cost dealt with changing the incline of the ramps and reducing lips at the edge of ramps that could cause someone in a wheelchair, scooter, or similar device to tip over.

Mayor Craig Stough said the challenge to put the ramps in compliance with the ADA “was never adversarial. We want or community to be accessible to everyone.''

The mayor said the ramps that were challenged in a lawsuit were in compliance with state law when they were installed.

Sylvania city council earlier this week was presented with a settlement agreement in the lawsuit calling for a payment of attorneys' fees of $6,700.

A vote of 4-1 was not sufficient to dispense with a reading of the ordinance and it was decided to not attempt to pass it as an emergency measure.

Five affirmative votes are necessary to pass an ordinance as an emergency.

Councilman John Billis said he would not vote for the measure because the city had already intended to correct any problem before the lawsuit was filed.

Council members Pat Kriner and Barbara Sears were absent.

Mayor Stough noted that money from a $40,000 grant will be earmarked for work on ramps .

The city council initially diverted $70,000 from a street repair program in 1999 to correct deficiencies in sidewalk and curb access for the disabled in the city.

At that time the city had received a letter from attorney Denise Heberle who had identified six streets on which ramps were either too steep or had edges that were too high.

About six months later a lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court, charging that the city did not adequately provide ramps as required by the ADA.

Mark Finnegan, an attorney speaking for Ms. Heberle who was unavailable for comment, acknowledged that a tentative agreement had been reached to settle the lawsuit, but added that it had not yet been filed with the court.

Mr. Ballmer said the work to this point has involved the renovation of 181 ramps. He added that most of the initial work had been done in heavily traveled areas such as the downtown and in the vicinity of schools.

More recent work has been in residential areas and other less-traveled sites.



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