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Thursday, July 16, 2009

Atlanta budget dinged by new unexpected costs — UPDATE

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Chastain Park Amphitheater isn't just a hostile environment for Garrison Keillor, Morissey and people who actually enjoy listening to music.

According to an audit by the U.S. Department of Justice, the city-operated music venue — and numerous other city buildings — violate the Americans With Disabilities Act.

Fox5 Atlanta reports that Atlanta will now have to pay $13 million in fines and facility renovations. Under a settlement agreement approved by the City Council Finance Committee yesterday (and which full council will have to approve on Monday), City Hall will pay $2 million each year until the debt is settled.

It seems Atlanta was randomly selected by the Feds for an ADA compliance audit. The results weren't pretty. Finance Chairman Howard Shook says his committee was handed a thick binder listing literally "hundreds of defects" that need fixing — from wheelchair ramps built at the wrong grade to bathroom hand dryers installed at the wrong height.

Many of the discrepancies involve minute angles and small distances, which gives Shook hope that some of the violations may be forgiven — thereby bringing down the ultimate cost — if the city demonstrates a good-faith effort at correcting the problems.

But for now, the city will have to find an extra $2 million this year to cover the unanticipated ADA costs. It couldn't have come at a worse time.

The byline on this post has been corrected.

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