Independence Safety and Code Enforcement Director David Cowan has received official notification from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) acknowledging the city’s successful compliance with the department’s mandate for Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) improvements.
The original “Project Civic Access” (PCA) settlement agreement dated April 29, 2011, required a major city-wide improvement effort to improve accessibility to sidewalks, municipal buildings and facilities. With the help of grant funding and City of Independence investment, a multi-year phased project was implemented with ongoing progress reporting to the DOJ. The ADA projects to date total more than $3 million, and have included more than 650 ramps and sidewalk repairs and remedial improvements to city owned buildings.
The DOJ letter received by the city on October 5 notes the city has satisfactorily achieved all requirements of the original agreement and “the Department is closing its PCA file on the City of Independence, Kansas.” Signed by Kevin Kijewski, deputy chief of the DOJ’s Disability Rights Section, the letter states, “…the City of Independence has submitted documentation, photographs, reports, and other evidence to demonstrate the City’s progress in improving access to its programs, services, and facilities….On behalf of the Department, it has been my pleasure working with the City of Independence, Kansas, on this important endeavor.”
Cowan noted that while the file has been closed on this specific agreement with the DOJ, continued compliance with ADA rules requires ongoing monitoring for inadequate accessibility in and around city facilities and responding to any future concerns raised by citizens. Additionally, Cowan said, current ADA projects are yet to be completed at Riverside Park and other venues to ensure optimal safety and accessibility for citizens. The pace of future improvements will depend on available funding, he noted.
“Serving as the ADA coordinator is both a challenging and rewarding job,” Cowan said. “Having the opportunity to be a part of a process that makes our community more accessible and welcoming while working with the citizens and city staff are very rewarding. The challenge is the amount of work still left to do and securing future funding for all improvements needed in the community.”