Augusta promises $22M fix for city building as disabled complain of 'second-class citizen' treatment

By: Chris Thomas Email
By: Chris Thomas Email

News 12 at 6 o'clock / Monday, Aug. 13, 2012

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- We first told you about a multi-million plan to bring Augusta's municipal building up to code.

Augusta's Engineering Services Committee signed off on improvements that can't come soon enough for many with disabilities.

The $22 million plan would construct new elevators and tax departments and provide a new space for the mayor's office and commission chamber on the second floor.

"It is way behind the times of where it needs to be," said Tim Hollobaugh, who wrote the Department of Justice back in 2009 claiming Augusta is in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

And three years later, the city is unveiling plans to bring the building up to code.

"It also becomes a problem for the county because if they are not in compliance, they can't continue to get federal funding," Hollobaugh said.

The plans point to a new sense of urgency from the city.

"There is an urgency," said City Administrator Fred Russell. "In addition to that, we want to get the building so that it functions better."

There are also issues with the restrooms. The door stalls open inward instead of outward and the automatic door option does not work.

"I wasn't aware of that," Russell said. "We'll fix that."

We pulled video from back in 2009. The automatic door option did not work more than three years ago. It was one of the issues that led the Feds to launch a formal investigation of their own.

"Then, obviously, we didn't get it fixed then," said a visibly irritated Russell. "Come on. Seriously."

We are serious, too, when it comes to using the restroom.

"I make sure I use the facilities somewhere else before I come to the building," Hollobaugh said. "It's just a plain fact of life."

It is a fact the city administrator insists will soon change.

"We'll get that done, thank you," Russell said.

Only time will tell, says Hollobaugh.

"It feels like you're a second-class citizen," he said. "It feels like you're at the back of the bus."

The plan goes to the full commission next week.

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