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Board approves plan to bring county up to ADA standards

Dan McDonald
Staff Writer

Just a few years ago, Plumas County was threatened with lawsuits for not complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

In short, the county wasn’t considered a safe and easily accessible place for disabled people.

That is changing.

On Tuesday, July 12, the Plumas County Board of Supervisors approved a plan presented by Facilities Director Joe Wilson.

The plan to bring the county into ADA compliance has been more than three years in the making.

“The fact that this plan is now complete really helps the county in its position with compliance of the ADA,” Wilson told the board. “It’s an important thing because Plumas County has the second-oldest population of all the counties in the state of California.

“Approximately 20 percent of our residents have some form of a disability.”

In 2008, the county was under pressure from the state attorney general’s office to improve access or face legal action.

The county responded in April of that year by retaining Gilda Puente-Peters Architects to prepare the ADA self-evaluation and transition plan.

“(Puente-Peters), over the past three years, has put together a tremendous plan that has identified all of our ADA liabilities,” Wilson said.

The Americans with Disabilities Act was passed in 1990.

The 2008 assessment of the county was done in partnership with disabled advocates. The assessment surveyed virtually every potential barrier confronting people with handicaps.

County facilities were scrutinized. The assessment included everything from door weights at county buildings to the height of the book drop at Quincy’s library.

Right-of-way surveys examined things like curb heights, lack of warning bumps or striping, and incorrectly sloped ramps on county streets.

The assessment also examined access barriers to county programs. It looked at availability of public records to the vision-impaired and sound equipment for those with hearing impairments at public meetings.

The project also included training county staff. Puente-Peters said in 2009 she put blindfolds on some staff members and put others in wheelchairs, and had them try to navigate county buildings and streets.

The results were eye opening, according to several staff members who took part in the exercise.

Wilson said the partnership with disabled advocates would continue as the county’s plan becomes reality.

“They became partners during the development of this plan. And they will continue to be partners during the implementation,” Wilson said.

Wilson said the plan’s scope includes improving 10 miles of public sidewalks.

“I would like to give a lot of credit to Mark Crews with public works,” Wilson said. “He is the one who surveyed the majority of that. And he went over it with a fine-tooth comb.”

Wilson said the plan analyzed 32 different programs and 29 facilities.

“Then there was a prioritization process that was put in place, to basically figure out: Since we have limited resources with an almost unlimited need, what should the county tackle first?” Wilson said. “That is what this plan has resulted in. It’s a 20-year capital improvement plan that allows us to gain compliance with the ADA.”

Supervisor Lori Simpson asked Wilson if the plan could be implemented in small segments, as money allows.

“Yes,” Wilson said. “And one of the most significant things — especially in terms of our public right of way — is as public works has road projects come through, the sidewalks will get done also.”

Director of Public Works Bob Perreault praised Wilson for the way he made the huge undertaking a team project.

“I would like to thank Joe Wilson. The ADA projects that he identified are usually either facilities department projects or highway department projects,” Perreault said. “And from the get-go, Joe has made sure that public works was involved in all of the project report creation that has taken place over the years.”

To view the results of the ADA transition plan in detail, go to the Plumas County website: > Facility Services > ADA Compliance > Transition Plan.

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