There are no fire trucks parked or firefighters working in Carbondale’s new fire station.
The Illinois Attorney General’s office notified the City of Carbondale that the new Fire Station #2 located at 401 North Glenview Drive on the city’s west side does not comply with Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) building codes.
An architect for the project designed public areas within the new firehouse to meet ADA standards, but the firefighters’ private living quarters were not built with ADA in mind.
"We have individual bunk rooms for them, individual shower rooms, a kitchen and dayroom. Those areas are considered private and the public doesn't go in there,” said Baity. “But the opinion of the attorney general is it's a public building and the public ought to be able to access it regardless of whether they're a firefighter or not."
According to Carbondale City Manager Kevin Baity there is a discrepancy between two codes: the Americans with Disabilities Act, and rules governing the hiring of firefighters.
"We're not allowed to fire handicapped firefighters, and yet the Attorney General's Office is interpreting the code to mean 100 percent of the building has to be handicapped accessible,” said Baity.
Baity says some things are easy and affordable to fix like installing hand rails or lowering sinks, but Baity says other handicapped accessible measures won’t be cheap.
“We put a mezzanine level which is basically a second floor in the apparatus bay area,” said Baity. “That area is for storage equipment only. State code says as long as it is under 1000 square feet and used for storage it doesn't need to be accessible. The Attorney General's Office now says there may have to be a vertical lift to get somebody from the first floor up there."
Plans for a lift would need to be pre-approved by the Attorney General’s Office prior to work starting, so at this point Baity says it’s unclear if the firefighters will move in knowing the building may still be under construction, or just wait until all ADA adjustments are complete. Baity says the whole process has left he and others with a lot of questions about this apparent code contradiction.
"This is in no way a plot against people with accessibility issues,” Baity said. “The concern is here we're not allowed to hire handicapped firefighters, so why should we have to build a facility to those standards?"
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