ADA Settlement Agreement Signed with U.S. Department of Justice
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Lumpkin County Signs ADA Settlement Agreement with U.S. Department of Justice
Lumpkin County, Georgia July 31, 2015
Recently the Lumpkin County Board of Commissioners chose to sign a Settlement Agreement with the United States Department of Justice. This agreement is in reference to Project Civic Access which the DOJ defines as “a wide-ranging effort to ensure that counties, cities, towns, and villages comply with the ADA by eliminating physical and communication barriers that prevent people with disabilities from participating fully in community life.”
In 2010 the USDOJ selected Lumpkin County for an Americans with Disabilities Act audit under Project Civic Access. The audit consisted of an accessibility review of multiple county buildings and the programs contained within them. At the time of the audit, the county was instructed not to make any corrections until the results of the audit were reported. The initial results of the audit were not released to the county until late October 2014. Since that time, county officials have been reviewing the results of the audit and negotiating with the DOJ for removal of some items initially listed in the audit. The resulting Settlement Agreement was accepted by the BOC on Tuesday, July 21, 2015.
The ADA was signed into law July 26, 1990. The standards became effective in 1991 and were revised in 2010. Of Lumpkin County’s 53 buildings, almost half were built before the ADA was legislated and are exempt, according to the law, from the standards unless major facility modifications occur. Other buildings, based upon construction date triggers in the ADA code, were designed under the 1997 Georgia Accessibility Code which mirrors the 1991 federal standards; however, the settlement agreement requires that over a three year period, all Lumpkin County buildings, regardless of when they were built or remolded, be reviewed for compliance. Additionally, three of the buildings surveyed are historic buildings and bringing those buildings to ADA standards may be in conflict with preservation standards. Since 1991, when county facilities have undergone major modifications, efforts were made to bring the facilities into compliance. Lumpkin County BOC Chairman Chris Dockery emphasized that “It is the goal of our local government to be accessible. The challenge is that limited budget dollars make it difficult to provide the required services and wants of our citizens while meeting the financial burdens of unfunded federal and state mandates.”
Lumpkin County is not alone. According to the DOJ over 200 Settlement Agreements have been reached since 1991 and “the majority of the compliance reviews occurred in small cities and towns”. Lumpkin County is one of only seven locations in Georgia to be audited.
Though Lumpkin County officials were able to prove that some items initially listed as non-compliant were actually in compliance; the BOC was advised by DOJ representatives that all other items could only be addressed after the agreement was signed. The agreement requires the county to hire an Independently Licensed Architect approved by the DOJ. “This architect will be key in helping us achieve compliance and mitigating the issues listed by the DOJ. Additionally, we believe the architect should be able to help us verify with the DOJ that some of the items they have listed in the audit are actually compliant” said County Manager Stan Kelley.
The Settlement Agreement provides the County with a three-year period in which to address the issues identified by the DOJ. The County will also be required to submit periodic progress reports to the DOJ throughout the Agreement period.
Lumpkin County Board Of Commissioners