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Access ramp to be for West Fourth Street City Hall entrance

City agrees to several federal accessibility requirements in settlement

An access ramp to City Hall for disabled individuals must be constructed on the West Fourth Street entrance as part of a settlement of a lawsuit the city reached with advocacy groups and four people under review by a federal court judge.

The proposed estimate for design and construction of such a ramp is between $100,000 and $500,000, said Jon Sander, city engineer.

On the upper end that would be more than half a mill of tax or 0.58 mills. One mill of real estate tax generates $860,000. On the lower end, if the ramp were $100,000, that would be 0.11 mills.

“We’re reaching a balance,” Sander said Friday, one day after the decree was announced.

He added the ramp does not have to match the exterior decor of the building constructed between 1889 and 1891 and registered as a historic building in the state.

An earlier proposal for a ramp connected to the rear ramp of the building, leading into the police headquarters, was not approved by the parties in the settlement, he said.

The plaintiffs included two organizations: Roads To Freedom Center for Independent Living, which serves persons with disabilities throughout Centre, Clinton, Lycoming, Montour, Northumberland, Snyder, Tioga, and Union counties.

Another party was ADAPT, North Central Pennsylvania, the local chapter of a national grassroots community that organizes disability rights activists to ensure the civil and human rights of people with disabilities to live in freedom. Several members of the Williamsport community also sued: Thomas Grieco, Tina Cummings; Jay Harner; and Marie Prince.

The lawsuit pointed out that the city’s non-compliance affects thousands of city residents, as well as visitors to the city.

Of the 4,667 total number of people with disabilities in the city, 3,362 of the city’s population have ambulatory difficulty, the suit said.

Misty Dion, the CEO of Centers for Independent Living Roads to Freedom hailed the agreement as “a long overdue victory for the disability community and the beginning of a more inclusive Williamsport.”

Shaylin Sluzalis, ADAPT organizer, stated, “no longer are people with disabilities voices silenced in Williamsport. As involved residents and members of the Williamsport community, it is our prerogative to hold our government accountable to their civil rights obligations. The first action is access, and we thank the city for owning up to their obligations to ensure it.”

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