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Making convenience centers ADA compliant has hurdles
Convenience center ADA original.jpg
Warren County is looking at making its convenience center at the fairgrounds ADA compliant, meaning handicapped residents will be assisted with trash removal. Pictured is Patrick Pinegar, who visited the facility last week. While he doesn’t need assistance, some residents do. - photo by Lisa Hobbs

Warren County Convenience Centers offer a handy place for residents to drop off a variety of unwanted items, but they aren’t always easily accessible for individuals with disabilities.

The county Policy and Personnel Committee is discussing how to make its convenience centers ADA compliant.

“I went out today to take some stuff out to the convenience center at the fairgrounds,” said Commissioner Tommy Savage, committee chair. “I’m telling you what, at times that place is a beehive. It is so busy. I think we’ve done all we can do to make it accessible. I think anything else we do will have to come through Policy and Personnel.”

Working at the facility can be thankless. Savage says some visitors are overly harsh when they are dissatisfied with the service provided by sanitation director Steve Hillis and his employees.

“The employees out there are berated,” Savage said. “They are cussed. I was out there today and Steve and I both got cussed. I don’t know why people want to do that. He used a lot of foul language toward us and toward the county.”

Hillis, whose employees do help people when they can, says there is no policy in place that requires it.

“A few months ago we checked with our county attorney about this,” said Hillis. “He said if we didn’t have a policy in place, that there’s nothing anyone can do about it. If you do have policy in place, you had to abide by it. If you miss one person, they can come back and sue you.”

Commissioner Christy Ross, whose father is disabled, was in attendance and insisted the county is liable for failure to offer assistance to persons with disabilities, even if no policy exists that requires it.

County Executive Jimmy Haley says a policy is needed that requires employees to unload the trash of disabled individuals.

“We need something as a policy that if someone with disabilities, whether it’s Christy’s dad or whomever, goes to our convenience center and says ‘I’m disabled and can’t get out of my vehicle will you help me unload my garbage’ the employees will help them.”

Hillis said setting that policy for all the county’s convenience center employees would require him to replace some of his most dependable employees who are also elderly and/ or disabled.

“I’m going to tell you that about two-thirds of my guys are handicapped themselves,” said Hillis. “I’ve got one guys that’s 87 years old. I’ve got some that’s probably 65 on up. They just aren’t able to unload. I don’t know what the answer would be. You’d have to get someone young enough or able enough to do it and who would want to do it. You’ll be opening up a can of worms.”

Hillis added, “My guys are dependable. They know they’re supposed to be there and they show up. They work part-time for minimum wage and without benefits. Not many younger people will do that. I won’t be able to keep employees.”

Savage suggested having one bin for handicapped individuals at the fairground’s convenience center one day per week when community service workers are there to help individuals. Those visitors must have a disabled person’s license plate or placard and ask for assistance.

Hillis stated, “The only problem is we don’t know when community service workers are going to be there. Last Saturday, which is our busiest day and we have vehicles lined up waiting, we didn’t have any community service workers. We just never know when they’ll show up.”

Policy and Personnel Committee members asked Haley to contact Judge Bill Locke about the possibility of guaranteeing the presence of community service workers on a specific day before making a final decision on the policy.