Frederick County must take steps to improve sidewalk access for people with disabilities or risk losing federal highway funding.

The State Highway Administration and county administrators signed a directive Jan. 28, ordering the county to identify areas that do not comply with standards set forth by the Americans with Disabilities Act and create a plan to rectify those deficiencies within 90 days of its evaluation or lose federal highway funding.

Frederick County has not updated its 1994 ADA self-evaluation or its plan to meet the act’s requirements, according to the SHA.

The county will need to evaluate the design of curb cuts and the angle, width and steepness of sidewalks. It will need to install the yellow textured mats, formally known as “detectable warning surfaces,” where required by law. Those surfaces help the visually impaired sense where the road begins.

The county must formalize the ADA compliance complaint intake process already in place and adopt a statement of nondiscrimination to provide the public with information about the ADA.

Some of the requirements outlined in the directive have been met. The county already has an ADA title II coordinator, Denise Rudegeair. She is the main contact for all of the county’s ADA complaints and works with staff to resolve Title II ADA complaints.

Frederick County uses a nondiscrimination statement as well, but staff will ask the Board of County Commissioners to adopt a specific nondiscrimination statement related to transportation.

Because the county receives funding through multiple channels, it was not clear Monday how much the county stood to lose if it did not take the actions outlined in the directive.

Division of Public Works Director Chuck Nipe said the county intends to comply so as to avoid losing any funding.

For some advocates for people with disabilities, working to meet ADA requirements is a long time coming.

“Frederick County has not been following federal and state regulations for years,” said John Gretz, of Urbana, who filed a complaint with the State Highway Administration.

The warning mats have been required since 1991, according to the Federal Highway Administration.

Gretz met with county officials starting in November 2012 to advocate for disability access. He became interested in the issue, he said, because he has a rare neuromuscular disease.

“This is becoming one of my passions,” he said. 

Gretz encouraged officials to retrofit sidewalks around the county with the mats.

The county’s Division of Public Works installed mats on 50 ramps in the Villages of Urbana in August 2013, according to county staff. The work was considered a pilot project and will be evaluated in the spring to help guide future projects.

Gretz voiced his concern in a phone interview that much work needs to be done in the development and around the county. He said that few intersections in the Villages of Urbana have the mats.

He also questioned why the county approved development plans without the appropriate aids for people with disabilities.

“There was confusion on the standards,” Nipe said. “They were just not included on the designs of the subdivision.”

He does not know how the confusion occurred, he said. 

The county will not know the cost to bring county roads into compliance until its evaluation is complete.

Crews have been training to identify deficiencies, Nipe said, and will go out into the field when sidewalks are clear of snow.

Gretz is upset with the county for neglecting to meet ADA requirements during development, he said, and he cited the costs of retrofitting roads and sidewalks.

“Who is going to pay for those? Because they should be there.”

Follow Kelsi Loos on Twitter: @KelsiFNP.

(51) comments

quemzeee2

There is an understanding that not all areas can become disability freindly. The City mayors building is one such structure, You simply have no place to add an elevator to the top floors, so it is not disability accessable. That is understood. not a problem.
But, you also have all the housing in Hillcrest with almost NO handicaped curbs. There are whole developments there with NO ability to do handicaped parking since there was NO parking added into the mix during development. [ some devleopments only planed on one car per townhouse???} That was the 80s from local developers. NO accesablity, there is plenty here.

twodooloo

It seems to me the sidewalks right in front of Winchester Hall or right down from it are all brick. Does that mean the Historical Society has get in on this because the brick sidewalks are "historical"??

ridor9th

Wow! 46 comments on this subject? For an ordinary article on FNP, that is pretty a lot. Hadn't read the rest but wanted to make a comment for my mother. She is deaf, disabled and has COPD. She is in her 70s and has to use the oxygen machine as well as riding the motorized scooter whenever we go to a large event.

My Mom loved to attend the annual Frederick County Fair & Frederick Oktoberfest at Frederick Fairgrounds. Since we moved to Frederick 3 years ago, we had not missed these events.

But we noticed that Frederick Fairgrounds are not disabled friendly - so many sidewalks, paved roads and/or gravel roads are either damaged, uneven or unbalanced. Several times, Mom nearly fell off her scooter when she hits these spots. Since this is county fairgrounds, I do not expect the luxury improvements, I expect the county/city to be reasonable in correcting these problems to make it easier for disabled people to enjoy the public places especially at the fairgrounds.

Plus, the cable protectors needs to be adjusted to make sure that people on scooters, wheelchairs and/or walkers could cross at ease rather than to be stranded. Mom's scooter got stuck because the protector was too high for her scooter to cross fully. Not only that, I saw 2 senior citizens falling off their wheelchairs when someone tried to push them over the protectors.

And last, the buildings around the fairgrounds - they're old buildings, I like old buildings but the ramps are always at the rear and/or behind away from the main entrance. Why can't they simply replace the steps with a gradual ramp for everyone else? I saw some little kids falling off the steps when they ran out of these buildings as well.

These are reasonable things to correct, I'm sure Mom and many others are not asking for major facelift or overhaul with everything at our fairgrounds, they would like to make it disabled-friendly, kid-friendly and seniors-friendly as well as everyone else as well.

Even with the fact that these things do present an irritating obstacle for Mom and I but that does not stop us from attending these events at fairgrounds.

R-

2ndAffirmative

Oh my, a 2010 power point presentation for county engineers presented by the Maryland Highway Administration.

www.countyengineers-md.org/docs/fa13_ADA_Compliance.pptx

2ndAffirmative

Is this about a 4/23/2012 letter from Melinda Peters of Maryland SHA?

http://www.roads.maryland.gov/OPR/ADA_Policy_on_Sub-Recipients.pdf

2ndAffirmative

Since 1973 anyone who accepts federal money has to be 504 compliant. Don't take the money if you don't want to be compliant. You may also be asked to return money you've already been awarded. That $15 million county deficit good grow even bigger.

http://www.dol.gov/oasam/regs/statutes/sec504.htm

stevem90999

I see those bunch of yahoos in washington are up to their usual game of blackmail and holding funds hostage that the citizens were forced to pay by the tax laws as part of that blackmail. It's the type of criminality that washington does best.

darththevader

I didn't see in the article where the SHA say there is anywhere not in compliance.

Newthinking7

Many of us spent years on the Frederick County Disability commision only to find out that it was never intended to do anything more than simply show a face.
This has been along, long time comming.
My quess is it is actualy a warning sign to developers. The Developers here from the 1980s, got away with murder on following Federal laws for sidewalks and such.
This is a long time comming, It is a warning to the Commisionors of things to come since they dumped all the services.

urbanacitizen

Gee you must have been on the Commission more than eleven years ago because I've been there since 2002 dealing with built environment. Last night I did a list of projects that I've worked on and created documents. It is over 30. Some only took a few hours but others took days. I have items in Frederick City & County that I'm proud to say that I'm responsible for that. Not big things but many little things that go unnoticed because if you make it right for the disabled it's right for the rest of us. This goes for a majority of ADA item requirements. One exception might be detectable warnings. I always make sure they are defined on anything I review but if they are missing after they are built and I didn't review it I don't make a big fuss about it. They are primarily for the vision impaired and the blind but people in wheelchair who have nerve damage may not think they are so great! Gil

watk13

Isn't government usually farthest behind on their own laws, working as intended.
I somewhat see the point of those yellow mats but for my daughter who is in a paowerchair they are bumpy as heck and sometimes knock her hand off the joystick. If they get filled with snow and ice forget about her using them.

urbanacitizen

Interesting. Never thought about the joy stick - learned something. Thanks. Bumps, detectable warnings, aren't fun for people with nerve problems. They're great for people with vision problems. Gil

squibmyer

Why has this been ignored by so many BoCCs? I'm glad people aren't just pointing the fingers at this current one. If I read it correctly, the county's ADA self-eval and plan of action hasn't been updated since 1994. That's 5 BoCCs (including this one) that haven't done anything with it.

public-redux

Yeah, an area of bipartisan agreement.

1coolteacher

I can understand the difficulty in retrofitting older sidewalks and developments to bring them into ADA compliance. However, how is it possible that any new development and buildings aren't compliant?

Fleawest

I can tell you that all the sidewalks along state roads are being brought into compliance under multiple SHA contracts. I know because I designed quite a few miles.

flynnd

Not in Libertytown. At least not according to Dave Coyne.

ALincoln

I'm surprised that the County has been so lax with ADA compliance since from my experience they can behave like Nazi storm troopers when they have you on their radar. The county permit office was staffed with people who would tell you one thing one day, then reverse themselves the next. I warned others to always get what they said in writing when visiting their office......because as sure as the sun rises in the east, you may be told something entirely different on your next visit.

On our very first visit, one person in zoning told my wife and I to avoid declaring our proposed building a business but wrote down notes on how to put in an ADA compliant bathroom anyway. "Call it a home office instead" this official told us. Then the next year their office came down on us like storm troopers because the building was not ADA compliant....truly amazing.

When we were commanded to have a meeting with all their dept. heads one day we came with the red marked notes from their zoning person who jotted down how to make our bathroom and parking ADA compliant.....clearly showing we discussed our intentions for a business during the initial planning stage.

We worked out a compromise with them that day, but were holding the trigger for a major lawsuit, having retained an attorney just in case they still wanted to play hardball...they didn't. They saw us writing down everything at the meeting and must have smelled trouble....for them.

When I asked why 99% of businesses in Frederick City were not ADA compliant, or why certain high profile businesses in the county were not ADA they had no response.

No surprise then why so many contractors who work for homeowners under the
radar since from my experience there was so much incompetence and double speak at their office.

That they now have so many headaches with the Feds over ADA only makes me smile...... the chickens have come home to roost.

cammiller

Having recently become disabled myself, and learning to live with crutches, I think that Division of Public Works Director Chuck Nipe has it wrong. He said, "The county intends to comply so as to avoid losing any funding." Instead he should have said, "The county intends to comply because it cares about its disabled citizens who need and deserve these accommodations." Or does it?

xroads1213

If the non-compliant sidewalks don't get you, the speeding traffic will. I think we need to get control of the deadly aspects of walking around before we make things pretty.

mdbass201

It's been the law for years and the county let the developers build without building to code. Now the county will have to pay for what the developers were supposed to do in the first place. More profit for the builders and more tax money from the county to fix it.

ballenger-creek-golfer

The county should now go back to the builders and tell them to fix it.[wink]

FarilTheVader

sounds like the county's inspecters screwed up. more training needed.

NASCARLOVER

IF the counties inspectors were doing their due diligence, there'd be no need to do it again, another example of their gross incompetence...

mdbass201

The developers built what the county told them they had too. There's no way for the county to go back and make them pay more now. The person who buys these old noncompliane properties will pay or they won't be able to open their new business now. It's the same as letting them build without sidewalks or curb and gutter and not paying the school impact fees. What do you think is going to happen when the builders with the 25 year impact free deal leave and stick the county with the bill.

Fleawest

Bringing downtown into compliance is going to be a nightmare. Say goodbye to any sidewalk that is stone or brick; it costs way too much money to replace in kind.

ballenger-creek-golfer

The Borough of Waynesboro, PA changed its sidewalks to bricks and are still in conpliance. Why can't Frederick do it?

Fleawest

Frederick has 10 times the amount of sidewalk that has to be replaced when compared to Waynesboro. Laying brick sidewalk is 3 times more expensive than pouring concrete.

sodalite3

You ask "Why can't Frederick do it? ". Try looking at the abysmal "leadership" FC/Fredneck currently has and has had. Try looking at the postings about the "tyrannical" and "dictatorial" commie black Muslim Federal Government.
Then try walking with a cane and a decrepit knee while attempting to cross the street without a curb cutout. But “We kept your taxes low”. And remember that the elderly and physically infirm and challenged are a real drag on the economy…they just want tax paid services and most don’t work or contribute to the economy anymore…if they ever did. We just gotta find some way to do away with them or at least keep them hidden from them libby, Socialist Pinko, tax and spend, overpaid, under worked, over educated nosey Feds.
[sad]

ballenger-creek-golfer

That's why I'm a contractor.

matthewboh

Those elderly and physically infirm were supposed to be taken care of (as in the passive agressive version of Final Solution), but then Obama Care came along and wrecked that plan. Now, it's costing even more for those people. They should just move to some socialist country.

Comment deleted.
Fleawest

You're totally right. I guess bringing the mess downtown into compliance will wait until someone threatens their funding.

flynnd

Like this?
http://www.ada.gov/fredericksa.htm

Comment deleted.
ballenger-creek-golfer

Isn't the downtown part of the county?[wink]

darththevader

Not as far as this is concerned

flynnd

no

NASCARLOVER

Well done, Mr. Gretz...

mpi1979

This is an easy one, just move to Montgomery County. There is more than enough of everybody elses money to go around. All intersections are compliant and all our roads have speed cameras. Our rain is now fully taxed, along with the plastic bag at the local store.
OK, I think I got off subject.
Once again, just move and for god's sake don't your checkbook!

elphabathropp

Yes, MOCO is ridiculous on taxes! The whole plastic bag fee is not because they want to "save the environment," it is simply just another tax. The merchant only gets 1 penny out of the entire 5 cents and the county gets the rest. Tax, tax, tax and spend, spend, spend. That is all they know how to do. They are a joke.

ballenger-creek-golfer

I guess MOCO is Montgomery County? At least Montgomery County is where I would rather live. Washington, DC has a tax on plastic bags as well, so do you have information on Washington,DC regarding the tax on plastic bags?[wink]

darththevader

I didn't see and specifics on anything that didn't comply

public-redux

This seems reasonably specific: "He said that few intersections in the Villages of Urbana have the mats."

darththevader

No, that's not specific. That's an indefinite number and not all intersection may fe County domain.

Specific would be The county’s Division of Public Works installed mats on 50 ramps in the Villages of Urbana in August 2013, according to county staff." Which is more than a few

public-redux

It appears that specificity is in the eye of the beholder. I don't think it is a discrete variable.

darththevader

He could (or the FNP) stated x number of the y number of sidewalks aren't compliant. How hard is that? Or atleast specify one that he uses regularly doesn't comply. Or uses at all. Not a well researched article and short on details

Fleawest

The county doesn't even know what is compliant. How can FNP give you the stats?

"The State Highway Administration and county administrators signed a directive Jan. 28, ordering the county to identify areas that do not comply with standards set forth by the Americans with Disabilities Act"

public-redux

Darth - he was specific about the issue (mats). He was specific about the area (Villages of Urbana). He was specific about the site ( intersections).

Here's an example of unspecificity: "FredCo has a lot of problems complying with ADA."


Comment deleted.
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penut

Or yours

Comment deleted.
drewbuddy37

Ah...another person blaming Blaine...this is getting a bit old. The law has been on the books since 1994 and Blaine was elected in 2008. A tad bit of building has been done between then and 2008.

Comment deleted.
drewbuddy37

My bad...2010.

Comment deleted.
Comment deleted.
public-redux

What?

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