ADA study: Selectmen want 94 properties reviewed

A study of town compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act is intended to be comprehensive — town officials have compiled a list of 94 town and school properties to be considered, ranging from town hall and Ridgefield High School to the Cass Gilbert fountain and Ballard Park bandstand, the dog park and the sewage treatment plant.

“I don’t want to just half-bake this. This is really important,” Selectman Steve Zemo said. “This is our defense in court.”

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed in 1990, and while the town has done some things to improve accessibility — the elevator in town hall, for instance, and crosswalk signals that can be heard as well seen — town officials know the town has much still to do.

They believe a comprehensive study that produces a prioritized list of projects to work on — even if they aren’t all done immediately — would be a good demonstration of the town’s efforts to comply, should it be faced with a lawsuit.

The selectmen put $75,000 for an ADA compliance study in their requested $3.9 million capital budget. They did so after looking at an estimate for an ADA compliance study of the 94 properties — most of which were rated priority 1, 2 or 3, though some had no rating.

The estimate from New England ADA Center, a Boston-based non-profit affiliated with the Institute for Human Centered Design, included three parts. Looking at ADA compliance in all the schools would cost $31,160. Town parks — difficult to estimate without specifics on their size — would likely cost another $28,000. Priority 1 buildings would cost $12,000, with another $3,000 for a smaller number of priority 2 and 3 buildings.

“It seems not a lot of money,” Zemo said of the estimate. “Too cheap. Something’s wrong with this.”

Social Services Director Tony Phillips and Commission for the Disabled Chairman Don Ciota, who presented the estimate to the selectmen Monday, March 6, assured the board that the study would be well done, including even cost estimates. They’d looked at similar work done for the city of Stamford by the same group.

“Stamford’s was very substantive and detailed,” Ciota said.

“I spoke to the gentleman in Stamford who’s responsible for this,” Phillips said. “He said it’s a very good document.”

The budget season is known for cutting, but the ADA study seems very likely to make it past the Board of Selectmen’s budget axe.

“I want to do it once, and get it done right,” Zemo said.

“We have to add it into the capital budget,” said First Selectman Rudy Marconi.