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Settlement over City Hall accessibility reached

City Council held a special session Wednesday to discuss litigation and reached a settlement with the Center for Independent Living regarding accessibility to City Hall for people with disabilities.

The consent decree, which is not an acknowledgement by the city that it allowed for any violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, sets terms where the city agrees to build a handicap accessible ramp, complete elevator updates, install special lights when there are alarms that go off, update the restrooms and put a process in place to meet all standards regarding accessibility at City Hall, Council President Randall J. Allison said.

The city agreed to make modifications to City Hall to settle a federal lawsuit that accused it of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Center for Independent Living of North Central Pennsylvania, the local chapter of ADAPT and four individuals were the parties in the settlement which is going before U.S. Middle District Judge Matthew W. Brann for his review.

The agreement includes a $55,000 payment that city insurance will cover. The resolution was approved in a 7-0 vote.

Officials from the Center for Independent Living did not immediately respond to comment.

Center for Independent Living advocates for individuals who are disabled and who seek accessibility.

The group has been vocal and has held protests in order to achieve full accessibility to City Hall and another government buildings and properties.

Estimates to repair building deficiencies such as heating and ventilation and add accessibility upgrades were between $2 million and up to $8 million.

Joseph Gerardi, city codes administrator, conducted study on accessibility throughout the city properties as part of orders by the city administration after the Center for Independent Living contacted the U.S Justice Department before the COVID-19 pandemic hit the nation last February.

Gerardi said he was not an expert in handicapped-accessibility but the consent decree said the city needs to hire a licensed architect or a professional individual experienced in accessibility standards to conduct an on-site review of the building.

Mayor Derek Slaughter said the settlement was reviewed by city solicitors and brought to council for the special meeting.

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