Hmmm *UPDATED*

The parts I’ve highlighted make this sound like a very expensive proposition and, as I explain below, I’m worried that the bureaucratic rigidity that controls these types of things is part of what will make it so ridiculously expensive:

Corte Madera must put a $3 million to $4 million revenue measure before voters by the end of 2015 to fund curb, sidewalk and other disability access improvements after a federal judge signed off on a settlement agreement Thursday.

The deal between Corte Madera and disability rights advocate Richard Skaff also requires the town to make numerous street, seating and disabled parking improvements by June 30, 2011, including repairing the sidewalk on Redwood Avenue, installing wheelchair seating in the gazebo at Old Corte Madera Square and putting in a curb ramp at Tamalpais Drive and Willow Avenue.

That work will be part of a street reconstruction project worth approximately $700,000 already included in the 2010-2011 budget, said George Warman, Corte Madera’s director of finance.

“The decree into which we’ve entered provides further assurance that the town will continue to work with due diligence to comply with state and federal disability laws,” Mayor Carla Condon said. “It is our utmost goal to remove any impediments to anyone with any disability.”

The settlement “is going to impact the town financially, but the long-term results will be in everyone’s interests,” she added.

Filed in 2008 in U.S. District Court, Skaff’s lawsuit contended that Corte Madera streets, sidewalks, trails and parking lots violated state and federal law guaranteeing access to people with disabilities. In a July 6 closed session, the council unanimously approved the settlement, which includes no admission of liability.

After the first phase of projects are completed next year, Corte Madera must establish a fund for subsequent work, the agreement said. The town will then put aside annual sums of either $50,000 or 50 percent of specific gas tax revenues, whichever is greater, and 10 percent of its unrestricted capital improvement expenditures from the fiscal year two years earlier until the revenue measure goes before voters some time between 2011 and the end of 2015.

Corte Madera’s unrestricted capital improvement expenditures came to zero last year because of the town’s financial problems, which include a projected $3.6 million deficit by the end of the 2010-2011 fiscal year, Warman said.

Skaff is a 66-year-old Mill Valley resident and former Corte Madera mayor who has sued numerous public agencies and businesses to get disability access. He said he hopes town officials frame the revenue measure in a positive light, highlighting its benefits for all residents.

“The sidewalks are just a horrendous mess. There has not been any work done on those for a long time,” Skaff said. “This (revenue measure) will give the town management the opportunity and the funding to do that.”

Under the settlement, Corte Madera will pay $200,000 in attorney and expert fees to Skaff as well as $25,000 in damages.

Skaff said he plans to put the $25,000 into his nonprofit Designing Accessible Communities, from which he draws no salary.

“We aren’t getting any enforcement by the California Department of Justice, so it ends up that individuals have to do the enforcement,” Skaff said. “It’s really frustrating because I’m one person, and trying to change the world as one person doesn’t work very well.”

Should the voters reject the revenue measure, the plaintiff will decide whether to continue bankrolling the work through the gas tax and capital improvement expenditures for 15 more years or to seek alternate funding sources, according to the settlement.

Read the rest here.

I’ve written before at this blog about the occasional insanity of bureaucratically imposed handicapped access.  When we got a north-south stop sign installed at our street, it cost the town a fortune because the town had to install wheel chair ramps at each of the four corners of the intersection — although there were broad driveways within 5-10 feet of each corner.  Because of the cost of the ramps, there was no money for the four way stop signs residents had actually requested to stop speeding cars that routinely drove through the east-west access.  So, for something like $40,000 taxpayer dollars, we got four redundant wheelchair ramps and two useless stop signs, which do nothing to slow the speeders.

My point is that, while I think handicapped access is a good thing, especially since those wheelchair ramps serve double duty for mothers with strollers, once the bureaucracy gets a hold of it, lunacy results — at taxpayer’s expense.  I have my doubts about the benefits of this whole thing.

UPDATE:  The town of Corte Madera was forced into this by a lawsuit, although I’m complaining, not about wheelchair accessibility, but about the fact that I’m sure the price is estimated to be so high because of inevitable bureaucratic foolishness in execution.  What’s Ann Arbor’s excuse for destroying its treasury and making its decisions?

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  • Danny Lemieux

    To the Corte Madre powers that be, this is play money. However, it will soon run out, as governments in California, Illinois and elsewhere are discovering. Only then will hard trade-offs be made between public safety and luxuries like wheelchair ramps at all points of the compass.

  • Doug

    If they did regular sidewalk work this stuff wouldn’t build up, and because it would be a regular thing with procedures, known contractors/suppliers, etc. the cost usually ends up a lot lower.  It’s when you treat things as one time jobs that the bids really get out of hand.  My town’s been slowly but constantly adding ramps for a long time, and being aggressive about fixing up sidewalks (doing some things for free, others they’ll split the cost with the homeowner).
    I actually think a nearby driveway isn’t really a substitute since people seem to feel free to block their own driveways…

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