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Parking dispute still unfolding

Staff writer

A drawn-out dispute between the city of Marion and a disabled resident threatening to sue is still playing out.

Kari Newell and her husband, Ryan, whose legs were amputated during the Gulf War, contend the city did not comply with requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act when it did an extensive streetscape project two years ago.

City Council members met at length behind closed doors at the end of their regular meeting Monday, then instructed city attorney Susan Robson to write a letter to Junction City lawyer Josh Boehm, who represents the Newells.

In new construction and alterations, federal law requires accessible parking to be provided if public parking exists.

“The project has completely failed to comply with any modern standard, regulation or law regarding accessibility for handicapped or disabled persons,” Boehm wrote in a July letter to the city.

Boehm demanded that the city say what it planned to do to resolve the problem.

“Failure to do so will result in continued escalation of this matter,” Boehm wrote. “Our client is committed to seek an appropriate resolution through continued escalation of this matter, including but not limited to filing suit if necessary.”

The Newells brought lack of accessible parking to the attention of city officials several times before hiring Boehm.

The parking area at the heart of the conflict is E. Main St. between 1st and 5th Sts. and accompanying work done at intersections with cross streets.

Boehm cited a Kansas law that states “It is hereby declared to be the policy of this state to encourage and enable the blind … and persons who are otherwise disabled to participate fully in the social and economic life of the state and to engage in remunerative employment.

“Such persons shall have the same right as the able-bodied to the full and free use of the streets, highways, sidewalks, walkways, public buildings, public facilities, and other public places.”

City council members have called several recent executive sessions for legal consultation. Sessions have included Darrin Neufeld, the engineer who designed and oversaw the downtown renovation work. Monday was the first time council members voted to take action after such a session.

Contents of the letter have not been revealed.

Last modified Nov. 3, 2021

 

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