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Washington, D.C. 20510-1502 Dear Senator Harkin: I am responding to your letter on behalf of your constituent, W. Fletcher Reel, Mayor of Missouri Valley, Iowa, regarding the efforts of his municipality to comply with title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act or 1990 (ADA). Title II of the ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in State and local government services. Sections 35.149 and 35.150 of the Department's title II regulation (enclosed) require accessibility to programs, services, and activities in facilities existing on the effective date of the statute, January 26, 1992. The principal focus of the program accessibility standard is access to programs, services, and activities, as opposed to access to physical structures. Therefore, not every facility nor every area of an existing facility would have to be made accessible, as long as there is access to the public entity's programs, services, or activities. The title II regulation does not require that a government entity eliminate structural barriers, if it provides access to its programs through alternative methods such as redesign of equipment, reassignment of services to accessible buildings, assignment of aides to beneficiaries, delivery of services at alternate accessible sites, alteration of existing facilities and construction of new facilities, or any other methods that result in making the services, programs, or activities readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities. cc: Records, Chrono, Wodatch, McDowney, Blizard, Hill, FOIA. n:\udd\hille\policylt\harkin.ltr 01-04185 -2If structural alterations are necessary to provide program
accessibility, such alterations must be undertaken unless the public entity can demonstrate that the alterations would cause a fundamental change in its program or that the cost of the alterations would result in undue financial and administrative burdens. 28 C.F.R. S 35.150(a)(3). Where an action would result in such a change or such burdens, the public entity must take any other action that would not result in such change or burdens but would nevertheless ensure that individuals with disabilities receive the benefits or services provided by the entity. Public entities may not waive the requirements of the ADA, nor is any Federal agency or other entity authorized to grant such a waiver. Because title II applies to over 80,000 units of State and local government, our limited resources do not permit us to review and approve self-evaluations and transition plans required by the title II regulation. We are unable, therefore, to issue a ruling that Missouri Valley's compliance plan complies with title II. In general, however, the types of measures listed in the compliance plan are appropriate ways of meeting the program accessibility requirement. Where structural changes would result in undue financial and administrative burdens, it is appropriate to provide government services and hold meetings at other already accessible sites or at the home of a person with a disability. The one-week prior notice requirement for moving a city council meeting to an accessible location would likely, however, restrict opportunities for residents with disabilities to attend council meetings. Access to local legislative bodies is a core principle of democratic societies and every effort should be made to keep restrictions to an absolute minimum. Other public entities have found far shorter time periods to be workable. I hope this information is helpful to you in responding to your constituent. Sincerely,
John L. Wodatch Chief Disability Rights Section Enclosure 01-04102
CITY OF MISSOURI VALLEY, IOWA "Welcome Home to the Future" March 15, 1996 Senator Tom Harkin United States Senate Washington, DC 20510-1502 Dear Senator Harkin: The City of Missouri Valley has actively been attempting to bring all City services and facilities into compliance with the American Disabilities Act for some time. Though it is ultimately our own responsibility, we have on occasion been mislead. We have been left with some uncertainty, and hopefully now, a clear plan of action. We believe our plan is compliant with both the letter and the spirit of the ADA, and essentially, we would like to verify its acceptability. Any assistance you could provide would be greatly appreciated. If you have any questions or further requirements, please contact me at my 712/642-4077. Thank you for your assistance in this matter. Sincerely, W. Fletcher Reel Mayor 01-04103 City of Missouri Valley, Iowa American Disabilities Act Compliance Plan March 1996 Objective: To bring City buildings and services into compliance with both the letter and the spirit of the American Disabilities Act. Background:
Missouri Valley is a small community with roughly 3,000 residents. We are a people who look-out for one another and have, with or without relating law, always considered it a civic duty to address the needs of those who are physically challenged. In essence, though our plans have not been formally adopted in the past, we have always made City services and facilities available to the disabled. Our major challenges in bringing our facilities into ADA compliance are our City Hall, built in 1931, and our Public Library, built during the same era. As much of our community was built on a hillside with the downtown area bordering a flood plain, both City Hall and the Public Library used steps and multiple levels to protect the building from flooding. These architectural features, however, are a difficult challenge when attempting to make these facilities accessible to the handicapped. Essentially, we have found that making the most basic changes would cost the City more than the structures are worth. When these buildings can no longer serve as useful facilities for the City, we will build new, fully ADA compliant buildings. However, building new structures now, before the old buildings' usefulness have ended, makes little economic sense, especially when one considers our limited funds and critical infrastructure priorities. Currently, all business district curbs are ADA compliant. Strategy: Our strategy in meeting immediate compliance with the ADA is essentially formalizing what we have always done. Our City Hall presently houses our City Clerk's office which handles a broad range of city services, the City Police, the Magistrates office, the Fire Department and the City Council Chambers. According to 28 C.F.R. Sec. 35.150(a)(1); (b)(1) of Title II of the ADA, the City may reassign services to an accessible 01-04104 Page Two.
location if the facility is not accessible or a City worker may meet a disabled person at his or her home to provide whatever service is required or mail service may be permitted. Plan: * Any individual who meets the standard criteria to be classified as disabled may make a phone call to the Missouri Valley City Clerk's office and ask to be provided with home service. The City Clerk would then initiate whatever procedures are necessary to deliver that service. These could include but would not be limited to collecting payment of Water bills, making out police reports, filing complaints and the delivery of library books. The City Clerk's office could also coordinate special arrangements which may need to be made with the Magistrate's office. In order to make City Council meetings accessible, with one week's prior notification, we will move these meetings to an ADA compliant facility within the City Limits of Missouri Valley. The City will place signs in front of City Hall and the Library informing people where they may call for assistance.
The City will publish the ADA compliant meeting locations in advance of the City Council meetings. 01-04186 The intent of regulation can sometimes be achieved more easily through local innovation. town doesn't oversee P.O. accessibility
Fed. gov. has to ensure P.O. accessibility Law very flexible ILLEGIBLE burden ESSAY/COM Bill Leonard When rules overstep com Missouri Valley, nestled comfortably in the low folds of the Loess Hills, is the sort of place you'd pick to show a visitor what small-town Iowa is all about neat, homey, relaxed. It's home to businesses geared to the farming community, commuters, retired farmers, and small shops and services. Its mayor runs a child-care center. But the town of 3,000 has a problem. It's out of compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. It needs more ramps and elevators - now. Congress left the town no alternatives. Fletcher Reel, named mayor in a special election last June and re-elected in November, has no quarrel with the intent of the ADA. "I'm not saying ADA is unreasonable in looking out for the needs of the handicapped," he said. But it should cut the town some slack. The main floor of the town's post office is about 12 feet above ground level. That meant a ramp was required. It cost about $100,000. "It's a beautiful building," reflecting the architectural nuances of the 1940s, Reel said, "and we absolutely trashed it with a ramp that winds back and forth." Further, the mayor said, almost no one uses the ramp (although "the skateboarders kind of like it.") His 95year-old grandmother prefers the
steps; the long, winding ramp made her dizzy, Reel said. The post office ramp was just for starters. City hall, the town library and the middle school are all out of compliance. Fixing them to satisfy the ADA would cost more than rebuilding. That means that some durable buildings with 20 or 30 or more years of useful life must be abandoned, and Missouri Valley abruptly faces some industrial-strength debt. Again, Reel isn't critical of the intent of the law; his roommate, a lifelong friend, has been handicapped from birth ILLEGIBLE other out," Reel said. But the ADA demands ramps and elevators, not helping hands or helpful neighbors. A bond issue for a new middle school has been approved, and the city council has voted to rebuild city hall. The $6.6 million estimated as needed to satisfy ADA - more than $2,000 for each resident - would push the city and school district bonded indebtedness close to the limits. And then, what happens in an emergency? Reel asks. Missouri Valley's sewer and water lines were buried before 1930; they could be getting weak. Woe be unto the little town if they collapse just a few years down the road, when the town is already up to here in debt. * Missouri Valley's mayor was one of a long parade of Iowans who testified in Des Moines last month before Iowa Congressman Greg Ganske and his ILLEGIBLE eral water-pollution and commercial driver's license laws. The hearing drew more than 100 Iowans with complaints dealing with federal regula-
tions. Targets varied. Favorites were farm, health care, environmental and transportation policies. The concept of metric conversion even took a hit. It would be nonsense to suggest that all the gripes mean all the regulations represent unreasonable and unwarranted interference with free enterprise or local self-government. But it would be equal folly to deny that excesses exist. Some are simply built into the law by Congress. L.D. McMullen, general manager of the Des Moines Water Works, was brief and to the point: Water-quality monitoring has become wasteful and burdensome. The Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974, as amended in 1986, required that the EPA set standards for 83 contaminants. It must add another 25 in a couple of years, and 25 more every three years thereafter. As a result, Des Moines is forced to check for 83 chemicals although only ILLEGIBLE mon sense, it provides ammunition to those who profit by maligning all regulation. If they succeed in dismantling needed controls, the nation's forests, lakes and streams will soon be indistinguishable from the landfills. Russia and the former Soviet bloc in Eastern Europe offer examples. In a huge share of that forsaken territory, it's not even safe to breathe the air. Avoiding a breakdown in orderly regulation here puts a special responsibility on the regulators. At all levels, controls must be applied in such a way that they retain the public's respect. BILL LEONARD is a Register editorial writer. 01-04188
flexibility. Missouri Valley, given some options, could serve its handicapped ILLEGIBLE ILLEGIBLE subcommittee on National Economic Growth, chaired by ILLEGIBLE 83 contaminants. It must add another 25 in ILLEGIBLE