Porter County looks at potential accessibility projects
By Amy Lavalley Post-Tribune correspondent February 11, 2013 9:40AM
Updated: March 12, 2013 6:08AM
VALPARAISO — The Porter County Board of Commissioners has accepted a 113-page transition plan detailing priorities for the county to come into full compliance with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.
The report, completed in December, was a requirement for the county to continue receiving federal highway funds, said Robert Thompson, executive director of the county Plan Commission.
American Structurepoint compiled the report over a four-month period, going through each of the county’s buildings and pointing out priorities for ADA compliance. It was submitted to the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission at the end of last year, which was the deadline for it to be completed.
“They just want to see some progress that it’s being done,” Thompson told the commissioners last week, adding there’s no deadline to complete the modifications. NIRPC is charged with overseeing the county’s progress.
While there are no funding provisions for coming into compliance with the ADA — that’s up to the county — Thompson doesn’t expect the work to cost much. At the administration building at 155 Indiana Ave., for example, the report recommends more handicapped accessible parking, among other measures.
Everything from the county’s trail projects to its bridges relies on Federal Highway Administration dollars, Thompson said, adding trail projects alone have received $3 million in federal money, and that’s far less than what the county Highway Department has received.
It will be up to the commissioners to decide which projects to tackle first, Thompson said.
A spokesman with the Federal Highway Administration said last spring that the county’s transition plan was part of a national move toward ADA compliance that started in 1992. In 1995, the FHA found several counties in Indiana — including Porter — still were not meeting those standards.
American Structurepoint received the contract for the work for $116,000. After the Porter County Council granted the money for the project in September, council members discovered it had not been let out for bids when they thought it had been.
County Commissioner Nancy Adams, R-Center, said then she should have told the council she received requests for qualifications for the project and not bids.
Bids weren’t needed for the project — despite the cost — because the work was a professional service and not a contractual one, like roof work at the county courthouse, Adams said at the time. State statute requires purchases of $50,000 or more to undergo a bidding and contract process.