Officials make meetings accessible


The Crofton Civic Association is moving its meetings from Crofton town hall, where stairs lead to the front door and more stairs inside lead to other rooms, to more accessible buildings to comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA).

Last week, the board moved its monthly meeting from town hall to a ballroom of the Crofton Country Club, an accessible building with curb cuts in the sidewalk and an accessible bathroom, all fixtures that town hall lacks. Subsequent meetings will be held in other accessible areas.

In addition, board members and town officials have agreed to meet residents at accessible areas such at the Crofton library or in people's homes to accommodate people with disabilities.

These changes put town hall into compliance with the ADA because alternative, accessible meeting space is provided elsewhere, said John Maloney, the board member who heads the association's ADA committee.

The move means the association is "taken care of in the short term," said Ken Folstein, board vice president. "But we can't just stop because we put a finger in the dike. We have to fix the dike."

The ADA, which requires full access to jobs, services and accommodations for the disabled, went into effect in 1992.

The deadline for state and local governments to have a compliance plan in place was January 1995.

Crofton didn't make that deadline, however, mostly because of bureaucratic problems.

Crofton leaders were under the impression in 1993 that they were governed by Anne Arundel County's ADA office and were waiting for county guidance.

In January, county officials told the board that Crofton had to come up with its own compliance plan because it is a special tax district.

Moving the meetings was the first step, but town officials were quick to point out that it was not enough.

"We're doing fine meeting the ADA requirements and offering home and library visits, except when we're going to have special meetings for budgets," Town Manager Barbara K. Swann said. "We're going to have a problem if we don't have our own space."

Mr. Maloney's committee has offered three proposals.

Two of them focused on modifying town hall and making an accessible bathroom.

One proposal involved building a ramp to the garage and installing a hydraulic lift so that people in wheelchairs could get to the conference room at the bottom level of town hall.

The second suggested building a ramp that would wrap around town hall and create an entrance to the conference room on the back side of the building.

The third and most expensive proposal involved building a ground-level addition to town hall that would cost $60,000 to $100,000, Mr. Maloney said.

Board members decided to discuss long-term plans at the general membership meeting in May.

No vote was taken, but the consensus of the nine-member board was to make the necessary structural changes to town hall, even if it means spending tens of thousands of dollars.

A resident in a wheelchair who attended the meeting approved of the way the board was tackling ADA compliance.

"It seemed like they were on the right track. They seem to understand that they need to move forward. It's not something you can put on hold for a year," said Patricia Laird, 41, of the 1400 block of Nestlewood Court. "You can't put civil rights on hold."

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