A pedestrian uses the crosswalk at 30th Street NE along 113th Avenue NE near Lake Stevens High School on Monday, in Lake Stevens. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

A pedestrian uses the crosswalk at 30th Street NE along 113th Avenue NE near Lake Stevens High School on Monday, in Lake Stevens. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

State warns ADA issues could keep federal money from Lake Stevens

City leaders wondered why the state is not including other cities with similar noncompliance issues.

LAKE STEVENS — Federal funding for the city of Lake Stevens could be in jeopardy over allegations about not complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act on curb ramps, crossings and a required plan to address accessibility gaps.

On Sept. 28, the Washington State Department of Transportation sent Lake Stevens a letter outlining the city’s alleged shortcomings in the face of the civil rights law and regulations, commonly referred to as ADA. The state also warned the city of its “intent to withhold federal funding.”

The letter also referred to a notice in 2021 over similar ADA compliance issues. WSDOT staff confirmed claims made in a complaint from 2020 during a “field visit” in May 2021, WSDOT Office of Equal Opportunity director Earl Key wrote.

“As of today, the city has yet to complete an ADA transition plan despite multiple warnings sent by WSDOT to do so,” Key wrote.

The letter apparently got attention outside of City Hall, which prompted Mayor Brett Gailey to respond in a short statement posted to the city’s site Oct. 25.

“… There are some social media posts I would like to address. Recently a letter of non-compliance was issued by WSDOT to the city surrounding ADA issues,” Gailey wrote. “We have been and will continue to work through these issues with WSDOT. For clarity’s sake, we have not lost one dollar of federal grant money due to this letter and we will have (compliance) prior to the use of the current awarded federal money for the Main (Street) capital project in 2024.”

Federal funding goes through the state and can be tied to adherence to federal laws and regulations like the ADA. When something is out of compliance, the tug of the purse strings can spur corrections.

Lake Stevens council members during their Nov. 1 meeting asked why their city caught the state’s attention when others did not.

“There’s been active voice in pointing out what deficiencies there are in Lake Stevens. That’s what it comes down to,” city attorney Greg Rubstello said. “There’s been aggressive active voice in pointing out ADA non-compliance in Lake Stevens, where it perhaps isn’t getting pointed out in other jurisdictions.”

Indeed a Lake Stevens resident has been vigilant in documenting the city’s ADA shortcomings.

The state’s letter was a welcome move for Disability Mobility Initiative, which is part of Disability Rights Washington, director Anna Zivarts said.

“That WSDOT actually took action here I think is a good step,” Zivarts said. “Not that we want people to be used as bad examples, but it will send a signal to larger jurisdictions that it’s time to get an ADA plan together” and budget for that work.

The city replaced or installed 14 new curb ramps this year and plans to replace at least another 24 next year, Lake Stevens Public Works director Aaron Halverson told the city council. Six of those ramps were near Lake Stevens High School, four on 91st Street NE north of Market Place, and four on 18th Street NE and Main Street.

But the consultant who crafted the city’s ADA transition plan, a required document that guides investments for accessibility, reportedly used “inadequate technology” for the initial survey, Halverson wrote in his response to the state.

It means the curb ramps must be reevaluated, delaying the completion of the plan until next year but in time for March 31, which city leaders argue is the state’s deadline.

Lake Stevens now has a matrix to prioritize and track work that addresses ramps and crossings.

The city also has “regular and ongoing” training for staff as well as related to private development ADA conflicts, Halverson wrote.

“It is the intention of the city to improve ADA compliance through staff training, plan development and capital project construction,” he wrote.

Ben Watanabe: 425-339-3037; bwatanabe@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @benwatanabe.

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