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Feds Reject Bend Request To Wrap Up Curb-Ramp Fixes


The U.S. Department of Justice has rejected the city of Bend’s request for a firmer, shorter deadline to make more than 600 curb ramps around the city fully accessible for the disabled by the end of next year.

This month’s decision by the federal agency means the initial 2014 deadline stands for Bend to make upgrades to the as-yet undetermined number of curb ramps around the city – an estimate that has ranged from 1,000 to 8,000 curb ramps, the latter an extrapolation from a partial count of the downtown area that officials say is unreliable.

Nevertheless, a city official said they will proceed with the $3.2 million in funding it has available to fix the 600-plus curb ramps by the end of next year, as they look at how many more need work – and where to come up with the millions more to do that work.

“After carefully considering this proposal, the Department believes that, as written, it is not a reasonable modification of the Settlement Agreement,” said a letter from Disability Rights Section Investigator Susan Quinn and Supervisory Attorney Jennifer McDannell, mailed March 4 and received a week later by the city.

Susan Duncan, who took over as Bend’s accessibility manager last summer, said Tuesday that at the time of its last annual review last fall, the federal agency had encouraged the city to compile a work plan for what it could do with available funding, and in what timeframe.

Other than the curb ramp issue, the agency is “very pleased with the progress” made by the city, in terms of facilities that comply with disabled-access regulations, Duncan said. “We’ve done everything in the settlement agreement, except ongoing stuff with the curb ramps.” Quinn was not available for comment Tuesday.

Duncan also said “there’s absolutely no number” of curb ramps specified for upgrades in that 2004 settlement of a lawsuit brought against the city by four residents a decade ago, accusing it of dragging its feet in complying with the terms of the ADA.

The city official said Bend has been working in recent years on four work areasidentified in the 2004 DOJ settlement for curb rampinstallation, including all streets overlaid (repaved) since 1992, as well as where new development has occurred and in areas where capital improvement projects have taken place.

Duncan acknowledged the city is still “getting its arms around what the count is” for curb ramps that need the upgradeelsewhere in the city – in fact, she said the city hopes to be done completingdata collectionthis summer. There could be some gaps, she said, such as where the park or school district has done some curb work.

“Right now, funding is tight, and of course, advocates (for the disabled) don’t want to hear that,” Duncan said.

“When we finally get our count together and can show them (the DOJ) we’ve been out to the field doing this, then we’ll be able to talk,” she said. “Right now, it’s arbitrary.”

Duncan said city councilors were briefed on the federal response during a recent executive session, which media can attend but not report on.

Brian Douglass, one of the four residents who filed the original lawsuit against the city, distributed the letter to the media Tuesday and questioned why the city would “keep mum” on the matter for weeks.

In an e-mail reply to Duncan, who claimed Douglass was “making this into a controversy,” Douglass said the city “has some $600 million in bonding authority” it could tap to make the curb-ramp fixes a priority “and make this a local jobs, jobs, jobs bill and get on with the work that needs to be done.”

Another advocate for the disabled, Carol Fulkerson, took issue with much of what Duncan had to say, arguing the city has had six years since the settlementto do a survey of non-compliant curb ramps and has failed to do so.

Fulkersonalso claimed the advocates have offered to help the city identify a modification plan: “It is called collaboration, which the city has not been at all interested in pursuing.”

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