NIRPC, group for disabled settle dispute over access
By Teresa Auch Schultz email@example.com June 2, 2014 7:26PM
Updated: July 4, 2014 6:29AM
Everybody Counts and the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission have reached a settlement in a legal dispute about how NIRPC worked with the disabled community.
In December, Everybody Counts lodged a complaint against NIRPC, claiming that the planning group had violated a federal court consent decree it had signed in 2006 that established an annual public meeting dealing with transportation for the disabled.
Everybody Counts claimed that the meetings were not easily accessible for the disabled, including being held at times when many transportation providers for the disabled do not operate or at a location that’s physically hard for some people to walk to.
Both sides now agree that this year’s annual meeting will take place at Wicker Park in Highland from 1 to 3:30 p.m. and 5 to 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 15.
NIRPC says in the agreement that it will take steps to advertise the meeting to as many people as possible, will include a video recording and written transcript of the meeting and will provide notes from the Oct. 15 meeting at the following NIRPC board meeting.
NIRPC also agreed to consider comments from Everybody Counts in its public participation plan, which the group had complained about, and will respond to each comment by June 25. A draft plan was created last year after several meetings between Everybody Counts and NIRPC, but it has not been finalized.
Despite the agreement, officials with Everybody Counts, which advocates for the disabled in Northwest Indiana, voiced no support toward NIRPC.
“It’s been a long, hard-fought battle,” Evelyn Rhenwrick, the group’s board president, said in a release. “But our decision to withdraw the motion in no way reflects an opinion that NIRPC has met its outstanding obligations. ... I’ll be surprised if they follow through on this agreement any more than they have all of the ones that preceded it.”
Ty Warner, NIRPC’s executive director, said he hoped the two groups could learn to trust each other.
“Whatever the history, NIRPC and this group both share similar values and concerns,” Warner said. “We all want to provide better mobility for the disabled, and we both want to have a regional bus system in place that is truly regional.”