What will it take to get U.S. District Court Magistrate Hannah Lauck and U.S. District Court Judge Henry Hudson riled up enough to tell Richmond Public School (RPS) officials to stop playing games with the public's money and the court's patience?
RPS officials and their lawyers learned of the ramp problems at Ginter Park and other schools more than a year ago when Chris Dovi at Richmond Magazine http://richmondmagazine.com/?articleID=3457354a99698071f409ab09112b3bb3, John Butcher at The Cranky Taxpayer http://crankytaxpayer.org/Schools/disabled_parking_money_fountain.htm and I first reported on the district's perennial lack of compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements.
Despite a U.S. District Court Order, a Settlement Agreement and RPS' expensive and "best" efforts to fix the problem, the ramp remains uncorrected.
In an effort to be fair, I contacted Andy Hawkins, RPS' (relatively) new Chief Operating Officer (COO) more than a month ago and quietly informed him that ramp (still) leads to nowhere, unless you count the school cafeteria as a final destination.
I described to him that once inside the building, a person in a wheelchair is confronted with a set of stairs leading to the first floor and a set of stairs leading to the basement. That's it. Period. No way up. No way down.
Hawkins promised to "look into it" and to fix the problem. He did neither.
Therefore, more than a month and A FULL YEAR since since Dovi, Butcher and I first reported on the parking, access path and ramp problems at Ginter Park, the situation remains the same. It is noteworthy, however, that COO Hawkins is a quick learner and has apparently mastered the age-old RPS practice of breaking promises and not returning telephone calls.
So, while waiting to hear back (ahem), I spot-checked the ramps at two other schools:
1) Ginter Park Elementary School: http://maps.google.com/?q=3817+Chamberlayne+Avenue%2C+Richmond%2C+Va+23227
The original design for the ADA entry was intended to serve the bus drop-off area and remote parking, but the slope on the ramp is (still) too steep and the asphalt area leading to the ramp exceeds the maximum allowable slope as established by the U.S. Department of Justice. [http://www.access-board.gov/adaag/html/adaag.htm] The landing by the door is not level as required.
The ADA parking has been moved from the farthest distance from the building to a spot closest to the school, however the access path and ramp do not meet ADA.
2) Woodville Elementary School: http://maps.google.com/?q=2000+North+28Th+Street%2C+Richmond%2C+Va+23223
The ramp, as originally designed was to replace the steps on the left side (looking from the street toward the building) of the front walk. Apparently, someone did not like this concept (I can only guess here) because it broke up the original symmetry element of the design. The architect (or someone) then moved the ramp to the center location. This change retained the symmetry and looks good on paper, but the dimensions were apparently not changed to keep the ramp at the max or less allowable slope (the flag pole gets in the way).
3) Binford Middle School: http://maps.google.com/?q=1701+Floyd+Avenue%2C+Richmond%2C+Va+23220
The identified ADA entrance is on the West Main Street side of the building tucked into the corner (you can see the striped spots on the aerial view). One doesn't need be an expert to see that this ramp and access path do not meet the maximum allowable slope.
To be sure, parking, access paths and ramps are the most crucial elements of the RPS ADA projects thus far. Yet, for some inexplicable reason, RPS officials and School Board members seem to want to merrily and blithely bob and weave along apparently unaware that the intent of the federal court order and settlement agreement was and is to bring the school system into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG).
If they think that by having an architect design the plans and a private sector construction management company monitor the ADA remediation construction, they are absolved of their Constitutionally vested duties. They are wrong. See Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III's opinion in Bacon v. City of Richmond to see why. http://pacer.ca4.uscourts.gov/opinion.pdf/061347.P.pdf
· Since, the Ginter Park ramp non-compliance issues were brought to the attention of RPS and the School Board more than a year ago, one can't help but wonder why corrective action has yet to commence.
· Issues: Who pays to rectify the problem, the Architect, the Contractor, or the Construction Management Company? This is a legal issue that absolutely should have been addressed by RPS attorneys and by NO MEANS should RPS spend a single taxpayer penny to correct the problem.
· What do the architect, contractor and construction management company have to say regarding these issues?
· Did the rchitect bring the issues to the attention of the contractor when they learned of the failure from Dovi, Butcher and this blog? If so, what was the contractor’s response?
· All of these notices / responses should have been in writing; Are they?
·Lastly, but by no means least, does the ADA Coordinator know the mathematical equation to determine what the slope of a ramp (triangle) is?
·Does the ADA Coordinator know what ADAAG stands for? Did the ADA Coordinator check the slope personally prior to approving the Contractor and A&E payments? According to her job description, she should know both of theses items and a whole lot more.
· Are RPS Board members aware of these issues and do they have an active role in rectifying the problems?
· Do they even care?