Money to help bus fleet become ADA-compliant

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— The city transit department, beset lately by the ramifications of an Americans with Disabilities Act lawsuit, is about to come into a lot of money. At the same time, however, the department's good fortune, and some of its misfortune, is going to cost the city about $70,000 out of its 2001 budget.
The transit department is being offered $1 million in grant money from the Federal Transit Authority, said Transit Director George Krawzoff. The Steamboat transit department is in a consortium of transit departments throughout the state called the Colorado Transit Coalition, which employs a lobbyist to get federal grants for the state. This year, Steamboat received a $1 million grant through the lobbyist's efforts, $200,000 more than it had expected. Now the city has to match the grant to the tune of $200,000, whereas it had only budgeted for a $160,000 grant match.
"I guarantee that the City Council will not turn down the $200,000 of federal money," Krawzoff said.
The city also has to pay part of the lobbyist's salary, Krawzoff said.
The grant money will be spent bringing the bus fleet into compliance with the ADA. Currently, half of the city's 22 vehicles are in compliance. The ADA lawsuit, brought by two local disabled residents and joined by the U.S. Department of Justice, is in the midst of settlement negotiations. Part of the Justice Department's settlement request is that the city bring its bus fleet into full compliance with the ADA, basically necessitating wheelchair accessibility. The $1 million will aid the city, officials hope, in bringing the fleet into compliance by the winter of 2001-2002, earlier than it had expected to be ready, Krawzoff said. Five new wheelchair-accessible vans and one bus will be ready for action as of next year, Krawzoff said. The money for those vehicles came out of the 2000 budget.
In the interest of compliance, the city also has agreed to budget $30,000 to lease two wheelchair-accessible vans for this winter if the Justice Department deems it appropriate. The department has requested compliance on a faster schedule than the city could possibly achieve, said City Attorney Tony Lettunich. Lettunich is hoping the department will give the city a little more time to comply.

To reach Avi Salzman call 871-4203 or e-mail asalzman@amigo.net

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