Elizabeth City will have to spend at least $ 1.4 million to bring the city into compliance with the American’s with Disabilities Act, councilors said this week.
The good news, at least for the city, is that it will have between nine and 19 years to make the changes necessary to comply with the ADA.
Shom Tiwari, a Lead for North Carolina Fellow assigned to the city’s Public Utilities Department, told the city council on Monday evening that governments must give people with disabilities equal access to all public services and facilities, and that the city is failing to meet this requirement .
Tiwari said the city was notified of ADA deficiencies in the city by the NC Department of Transportation in 2019.
“In particular, they listed several steps we need to take to become compliant so that all people in our area, with or without disabilities, have equal access to our city,” said Tiwari. “I would like to point out that this is not only true for Elizabeth City. Countless communities across the state have received similar reports from DOT and have started their own process to become more ADA compliant. “
The list of ADA problems in Elizabeth City is long. The state found 180 accessibility deficiencies in the city, although many of them are minor.
One of the main issues with ADA compliance is that approximately 62 percent of the city’s 63 kilometers of sidewalks do not meet legal standards.
Tiwari and other city officials walked all 39 miles of the city’s sidewalks. Some of the most common problems they identified are insufficient walkway length and tree roots breaking through the concrete.
Tiwari showed the city council a photo of a fire hydrant in the middle of a sidewalk at an intersection along Locust Street.
“If a person were to come down that sidewalk in a wheelchair, they would have to get off the sidewalk and into the street to get to their destination, which would be a hazard,” said Tiwari.
Most of the 795 curb ramps – 88 percent – also do not meet ADA standards. The most common problems are steep ramps that could endanger wheelchair users and no recognizable warnings for the visually impaired.
Other problems are that some parking spaces in the city are inaccessible and hallways and toilets do not have the required functions and spacing. The city has 60 different buildings, parks, recreation centers and cemeteries.
Tiwari also noted that the broadcast of the city council meetings on their website and on the city’s cable TV does not include subtitles as required by the ADA.
Tiwari said it would cost $ 1.3 million to repair the curb ramps, but the city has until 2040 to complete the work. Repair of the city’s sidewalks is currently estimated at $ 140,000 with a deadline of 2030.
Cost estimates for repairs to public buildings and facilities have yet to be established as some of the work needs to be contacted, Tiwari said.
“While we received this breach report from DOT, they just make sure we are doing our best to see where we need to improve and invest resources to ensure compliance,” said Tiwari. “They don’t have a set schedule for when we have to do it.”
City Manager Montre Freeman told the city council that the ADA fixes will be part of the city’s upcoming strategic plan.