The numbers are in, Maryville and Alcoa have seen the bill and one thing is for sure: Americans With Disabilities Act compliance is not cheap.
Both Maryville and Alcoa received their ADA Self-Evaluation and Transition Plans in June and August, respectively. The documents — now available online at the cities’ websites — are detailed overviews of what needs to be changed in each city to comply with federal requirements.
Most of these changes to greenways, sidewalks, building standards and other aspects of daily-pedestrian activity fix small things that inhibit movement or access for a disabled person. And there are hundreds of them.
The cost to make each of these fixes in the city? A total $16,279,244 for Maryville and $14,710,456 for Alcoa.
But the money will not be spent all at once.
“The Department of Justice doesn’t expect every city, town and county to go bankrupt themselves,” Alcoa City Manager Mark Johnson said in a phone interview.
Johnson had introduced city commissioners and officials to the cost in a city manager’s workshop Oct. 25, five days before the the study went live on Alcoa’s website. He explained during the meeting that, after receiving an estimation of ADA compliance costs, the city decided to spend $75,000 toward the project for a start.
But dealing with every single necessary fix cannot happen overnight. Johnson said changes may take up to 30 years to complete. Maryville City Manager Greg McClain said that his city’s ADA repairs may take a little less time.
“The vast majority of it is going to be sidewalk approaches to intersections,” McClain said. “You just have to prioritize those: the worst cases and/or the most traveled locations and try to build a budget over the next 20 to 25 years so you can knock all those out.”
Aside from sidewalk and greenway repairs — which alone will cost both cities just over 12.5 million all told, according to the plans — Alcoa and Maryville will begin repairs with improvements to government buildings.
Recommendations for building improvement can be very specific. One line in the Alcoa plan even requires a toaster oven to be moved from the top of a microwave to the counter top at the city’s Service Center.
They also can be very general and expensive. Recommendations for ADA improvements at Maryville’s animal shelter are set at a probable cost of $13,690.
Both Maryville and Alcoa have separate approaches to footing the bill for each one of their projects. Johnson said it’s a matter of planning for more and more necessary spending for each year’s budget. McClain emphasized the importance of how much work Maryville already has done and how much it can do as it works on tangential capital projects.
“Yeah, we have been, we are and we certainly will be putting a certain amount of money in each year,” McClain said. He pointed to the recent repaving work that TDOT did in the city. During that project, almost every intersection approach from William Blount Drive to Heritage High School was improved.
“We’ve been working on it even before this study,” Johnson said. “We’ve been doing it every year, but we’re trying to step it up this year.”
And for most of Blount’s urban areas, that will be the order of the day for the next 30 years as city engineers and financial managers check each item off the lists they now have — Alcoa has a 326-page plan; Maryville’s is 106.
“The important thing is, we’ve now got a more comprehensive list of things that we need to do,” Johnson said.
“It’s an extra effort, but one that’s important to go through,” McClain said.