Originally published in the Sentinel-Tribune on Posted:
Friday, March 22, 2019 9:00 am
The Ability Center's Advocacy Program approached the City of Perrysburg regarding accessibility issues with their downtown historical establishments. The Ability Center has received complaints because 22 businesses in downtown Perrysburg have steps at their entrances that prevent people with disabilities from using those businesses. Under the ADA, they are required to have an accessible route to an accessible entrance that is usable by people with disabilities.
Perrysburg city council passed a budget proposal to create a design for accessible entrances at all downtown Perrysburg businesses.
By Roger LaPointe, Sentinel-Tribune Staff Writer
PERRYSBURG — City council passed the 2019 amended budget at the Tuesday meeting that included funding for a multi-use path and engineering studies for compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Dave Creps, finance director, said that this operating budget is for $27.5 million.
The vote was 5-1. Councilwoman Deborah Born voted against it.
Prior to the budget discussions and vote, Mayor Tom Mackin introduced Katherine Hunt Thomas, a disability rights attorney with the Ability Center. She, along with Tenesha Ulrich, vice president of the United Spinal of Northwest Ohio, spoke on the two budget issues related to ADA compliance.
There are two separate line items in the budget dealing with ADA compliance. The $100,000 Municipal Building ADA Compliance Engineering/Construction is for bringing the municipal building into compliance and would start with an engineering study.
The city consulted with the Ability Center on changes that would bring the building into compliance for physical accessibility.
The second item is labeled ADA Downtown Building Access Compliance Engineering/Construction and deals with business entrances on Louisiana Avenue in the historic district.
The Ability Center has received complaints from individuals about physical access to buildings from the public right of way.
The city had responded to the Ability Center’s assertions with a plan to do a study on accessibility at the front entrances that might included a consistent entry method to the businesses in the right of way area leading up to the property lines.
“It would give the city some control over what the design looked like,” Thomas said.
The Ability Center was there to support the city’s proposal.
“We were really impressed with the solution oriented and respectful manner in which we were treated,” Thomas said.
The ADA was passed 28 years ago, with an update in 2010. The design standard is called “readily achievable barrier removal.” In 1990 businesses were given the obligation to come up with a plan to achieve that goal.
Ulrich added to the discussion by relating some of her experiences in the downtown area, where she has not been able to access buildings with her wheelchair, when she has had to wait outside a building. She is a Wood County resident and enjoys coming to the Perrysburg Farmers Market.
“I would like to see the funds allocated so Perrysburg can become a model for the rest of the city, the rest of the state and the country,” Ulrich said.
Mackin said there would be a balancing act. “In talking with advocates, from the administration point of view, it’s important to make sure that changes being done are consistent with the historic district and sensitive to that, and also meet with the boards to make sure the changes have the flavor and appeal that it currently has, while also making it more accessible,” he said.
Born said the budget was wasteful.
“I will not vote for this budget in its current form because it includes many items which are unnecessary and wastes of taxpayer dollars. It also under funds several necessary departments which provide reasonable and necessary services to the taxpayer,” she said.
Born opposed seven items and noted funding levels she associated with them: two multi-use paths for $925,000 and $168,826, $5.5 million in sanitary sewer overflows, $50,000 in parking at Woodland Park, $15,000 for Share the Road markings and $80,000 for downtown ADA compliance. There is also a new assistant to the city administrator position, as well as the $25,000 cost for training the person in the new position, that she noted.
Born said she would like to see $76,000 for two police patrol vehicles, $164,000 for three firefighters and additional money for park maintenance and mowing equipment for the Fort Meigs Cemetery.
“Last and possibly most important, efforts to stop the dumping of raw sewage into the Maumee River,” Born said. Council Member Jonathan Smith said that latter issue is being addressed. “The study we’ve been doing over the last few years about reducing the overflows and trying to eliminate this is part of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency agreement. I know the public utilities committee has been taking it on pretty heavily over the last several years,” Smith said.
Council member Tim McCarthy said the budget is not wasteful. “Money for the multi-use path was approved in the budget we approved last year and, I believe it passed six to one. I find it ridiculous to say it’s a waste of taxpayer money,” McCarthy said. “That’s what study after study has called on us to do. We’re not building a Disneyland down there, we’re building a simple walking path.”
McCarthy said he supported the ADA accessibility study. “I think that’s an admirable project for the city to undertake, to make our downtown accessible to all our citizens.”
Council president Jim Matuszak said that Councilman Haraz Ghanbari’s absence was excused due to his required Navy Reserve duty which required him to be away for maneuvers.