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Federal mandate produces costly improvements that lead to disrepair

7:30 PM, Dec 11, 2012   |    comments
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ATLANTA  -- Federal mandates are what led to $140,000 worth of handicap assessable curbs that led broken sidewalks few wheelchairs can navigate.

That's the word from Atlanta's Department of Public Works after 11Alive continued to question the city about the costly curbs and damaged sidewalks in Ormewood Park.

Ben Leak appreciates the improved curbs. He has roamed the Ormewood Park neighborhood in his wheelchair for the last twelve years.

He can't understand the areas where the handicap assessable curbing, installed with taxpayer dollars, led to sidewalks that are hardly handicap assessable.

"That is a waste in this particular instance, for there to be a nice ramp installed to a sidewalk that's not going to let anyone on a wheelchair pass through it," Leak said.

It's been six months since we first heard from neighbors here about the curbs improvements along Delaware Avenue. Rebecca Feldstein complained that the curbs were a waste when they were attached to sidewalks that are broken in places so badly anyone traveling on wheels would avoid them.

"To spend money to help get up on the sidewalk, then not be able to use it, it's a waste of the city's time and money," Feldstein said.

At the time, the city told us some sidewalks in the area would be repaired.

A check six months later found that the city did repair a few broken sections of sidewalk in front of Atlanta Charter Middle School.

According to the city, any other repairs are left up to neighbors.

The city's public works department is now explaining what they didn't during our initial story.

After a resurfacing project on Delaware Avenue, the federal government ordered the city of Atlanta to install the updated, handicap assessable curbs in Ormewood Park. The feds said nothing to the city about the broken sidewalks.

"It makes sense for us to follow what we've been mandated to do," Pubic Works spokesperson Valerie Bell-Smith said. "It also makes sense for us to make areas as assessable as possible."

The city is working with neighbors in Ormewood Park, trying to arrange funding for more sidewalk repair.

For now, Ben Leak is avoiding those expensive curbs and the broken sidewalks, and sticking to the streets.

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