LEWISBORO, N.Y. – When Dean Travalino went to the new town offices in the Orchard Square shopping center this week to meet with the assessor, it was the first time in 24 years as an attorney living in Lewisboro he was able to meet with her face to face.
Travalino, who uses a wheelchair to get around, said it has taken the town nearly two decades to get in line with the Americans With Disabilities Act, but the work is nearly complete.
“It’s a long time overdue, but not less welcome,” he said. “I’m very happy about it. It’s great to see those offices and to be able to use them meaningfully and work with the assessor in person.”
The road to ADA compliance has been a rocky one, as the issue ping-ponged back and forth between myriad administrations, sometimes becoming a political football, other times succumbing to budget issues.
It began in 1990 in response to a complaint filed with the U.S. Department of Justice, and Lewisboro ended up negotiating a voluntary compliance agreement.
“The Justice Department came in and said, ‘Oh, my God – what are you doing?’ ” Travalino said. “They found pages and pages of problems.”
But Travalino said the town dragged its feet when it came to making the changes.
“Everyone just felt we were a small town and didn’t have to do it,” he said.
The agreement was eventually signed by both parties in December 2009. That same year, Lewisboro established an ADA Compliance Task Force, of which Travalino is a member, to oversee the process involved in rectifying noncompliance.
The work completed by the task force includes the relocation of all the town offices at the Onatru farmhouse, which includes the Planning, Building and Zoning departments, to the new ADA-compliant Orchard Square facilities. Work will now begin on bringing the farmhouse into compliance, including the installation of an elevator.
The Lewisboro Library was also brought into compliance. A chair lift was installed to provide wheelchair access to the elevated children’s area, and an accessible checkout counter is now available.
“Before that, children in wheelchairs couldn’t get up into the children’s wing,” Travalino said. “It was a terrible thing.”
At the Lewisboro Town Park, the Lewisboro Baseball Association, in conjunction with the town, renovated the Little League field to correct all of the exterior deficiencies, which included the construction of wheelchair-accessible pathways and entranceways to the press box, concession stand and the ball field itself.
“That was a major project,” Travalino said.
The one building project left for the town to become fully ADA-compliant is the construction of a wheelchair-accessible unisex bathroom on the first floor of the Town House, Travalino said. Additionally, the old court clerk’s office (which has moved to Orchard Square) will be a converted into an office where those in wheelchairs can meet with the supervisor, whose office is on the second floor.
The rest of the legal obligations the town faces deal with self-evaluation and education. The ADA Committee will meet with all the town’s department heads to see where they are regarding the ADA and perform self-evaluations to see if any procedures need changing. There will also be some retraining of town employees.
Travalino said there’s one other thing on his wish list, although it’s not part of the town’s legal obligation.
“I’d love to see an ADA-accessible walking trail somewhere in town,” he said. “I think Old Field Preserve (in Waccabuc) would be a good spot, because it’s pretty flat.”
But if even if the walking trail never comes to fruition, Travalino said he’s proud of the progress Lewisboro has made, though it took two decades.
“The path was long and winding and got brought into the partisan realm,” he said. “But in the end, it was a bipartisan effort that got it done.”