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Mount Carmel takes first steps toward ADA compliance at City Park

Jeff Bobo • May 28, 2019 at 12:44 PM

MOUNT CARMEL — City leaders took the first step Thursday toward bringing the Mount Carmel City Park into compliance with ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) guidelines by agreeing to create an "inclusive playground."

Bringing the Mount Carmel City Park into ADA compliance has long been a goal of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen, not just to better serve children with special needs, but also to eliminate potential lawsuit liability.

On Thursday, the BMA voted 5-0 in favor of a resolution committing to purchasing one piece of ADA-compliant playground equipment per year.

Vice Mayor Jennifer Williams noted that playground equipment can be "extremely expensive," and buying a large amount of equipment at once is not an option.

City Manager Mike Housewright noted, however, that there is some carry over funds in the park budget from the current fiscal year to pay for that first piece of ADA playground equipment in 2019-20.

"What we're talking about is trying to buy at least one piece of ADA play equipment for the park each year so that all children will have access to play at the park," Williams said.

Alderman Pat Stilwell wanted to ensure any new equipment purchased by the town won't make special needs children feel separate.

"That piece of equipment won't just be put over there for these special needs kids," Stillwell said. "It will be into all of the park so the kids will feel comfortable being around all types of kids. They can't put these kids in one place and the other kids in another place."

Stillwell noted that in her experience working in special education it was important for all children to feel comfortable playing together.

"What we've talked about is trying to integrate it into the park so all kids can interact together," Williams said. "It's called an inclusive playground. One that offers a range of play experiences to children of varying abilities and generally applies to ADA (guidelines). Every feature must be used by every child, or just children with disabilities."

Williams added, "That way it shows that we're trying to work towards an inclusive playground and having access for all children in Mount Carmel having an ability to play. Right now they have to go all the way to ... Warriors Path State Park is the closest."

First reading of budget passes

In other business Thursday, the BMA voted 3-2 in favor of the first reading of the proposed 2019-20 fiscal years budget, with Jennifer Williams, Wanda Davidson and Carl Wolfe in favor and Steven McLain and Pat Stilwell opposed. Mayor Chris Jones and Alderman Jim Gilliam were absent.

The only budget discussion during Thursday's meeting was Stilwell expressing her desire for another budget workshop before the budget comes up for final approval June 27.

Housewright describes this budget as bare bones and no frills, which maintains existing services with no tax increase and a $36,000 surplus.

It does, however, earmark $175,000 for paving, and there's also $400,000 in carryover funds from the current fiscal year that Housewright hopes to use to repair the fire station driveway pad, buy a new police car and complete a variety of overdue facility repairs and upgrades.

Non-gender Library Board membership

Mount Carmel Library Board Chairman Phillip Holt asked the BMA to consider an ordinance eliminating a reference to gender regarding membership to the Library Board. He said the existing ordinance language was copied from state law, and that law has been changed.

"As long as people are interested in the library I don't see that it makes any difference if they're a man or a woman, or whatever," Holt told the BMA.

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