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North Adams, Justice Department Reach ADA Agreement

Staff Reports
11:15AM / Wednesday, October 17, 2012
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The North Adams Police Department lacks a handicapped entrance, which led to a further review from the Department of Justice to check for the city's compliance of the American With Disabilities Act.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The Department of Justice announced its settlement with the city on Tuesday to improve access for the disabled to comply with the federal American With Disabilities Act.
 
"The city of North Adams is to be commended for its proactive commitment to ensuring that people with disabilities have full access to the city's facilities, programs, services and activities," said Thomas E. Perez, assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division.
 
The agreement was reached under Project Civic Access, the department's initiative to ensure compliance of the ADA that prompts the DOJ to survey state and local government facilities, services and programs nationwide. This agreement will remain in effect for three years or until the actions are completed and the DOJ will monitor the city's improvements. In addition, the city will submit a report to the DOJ in three months and then again on the anniversaries of the agreement, unless otherwise noted for specific changes.
 
The agreement focuses on improving handicapped access to public facilities and to improve communication, which includes upgrading the 911 system to better suit people who are hard of hearing. The city must also properly notify the public of the improvement progress.
 
The DOJ began auditing in November 2011 and then in August Mayor Richard Alcombright told City Council that the city is expected to spend around $1 million on retrofitting and fixes in order to comply.

Alcombright said he plans to ask City Hall for an initial borrowing order of $250,000 — possibly $500,000 — but also noted that he's "very intent on trying to leverage federal money." For example, Alcombright said the improvements to the Noel Field Athletic Complex can be covereed by Community Development Block Grants and he hopes to receive similar grants in the upcoming years.

Regardless, Alcombright noted that making the entrance to the police station handicapped accessible, which sparked the review, will be a "significant investment."

The mayor said his administration is still planning on an approach to meet the guidelines of the agreement.
 
Alcombright signed the agreement on Sept. 19 and the agreement can be found at the ADA website.

Tags: ADA,   DOJ,   

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