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Borough hopes to catch up on its curb ramps

March 28, 2006|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - At about $1,000 each, Chambersburg has enough money available to install or replace curb ramps in the Fifth and Fourth Wards to bring them into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

On Monday night, the Borough Council voted to allocate $14,150 from its federal Community Development Block Grants Program toward the curb ramps, but also reallocated $50,000 in unspent 2002 funds originally earmarked for its housing rehabilitation program and $768 from a financial counseling program.

Those allocations bring the total the borough has set aside for curb ramps to about $180,000, said Phil Wolgemuth, the borough's planning director and administrator of the CDBG program.

"It's a worthy project, but it's a big project," Wolgemuth said.

A survey in the Fifth Ward counted about 80 corners that still need ramps, Wolgemuth said. A similar survey of the Fourth Ward has yet to be done, he said.

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Once the Fifth and Fourth Wards are completed, the borough will look at curb ramps for the Third Ward, Wolgemuth said.

"We have not seen the end of the beginning, but we're starting to see progress," Council President William McLaughlin said of the ramp program.

As streets are reconstructed or overlaid, the borough installs or replaces curb cuts, Borough Manager Eric Oyer said, but there are hundreds of intersections in the borough.

In other parts of the state and country, attorneys have filed suit against municipalities that have not been aggressive enough in similar programs, McLaughlin said.

"We are working diligently to achieve 100 percent compliance ... to make us 100 percent lawsuit-proof from that particular variety of piranha," he said.

The borough's 2006 CDBG entitlement was $267,016, 12 percent less than in 2005, and it received 13 funding requests totaling twice that, Wolgemuth said. The council on Monday approved seven requests, including the $14,150 for curbs.

The council allocated $50,000 for street improvements in low- and moderate-income areas; $50,000 to establish a grant program to help low- and moderate-income homeowners pay for curb and sidewalk repairs; and $50,000 to match a $150,000 state grant from the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources to renovate Mike Waters Park on South Second Street.

Franklin County Legal Services received $22,366 for a third year of funding for a bilingual paralegal, and the Chambersburg Hispanic American Center received $17,500 for a third year of funding of an employee salary to support its multicultural programs.

The balance of $48,000 - 18 percent of the CDBG funds - goes to administer the programs.

CDBG funding has been shrinking in recent years, and McLaughlin said the borough and other municipalities are lobbying federal elected officials to restore funding to 2002 levels. That would give the borough an additional $100,000 in discretionary spending, he said.

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