Supplement Feature - February 2012
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Roll With the Changes

What Aquatic Facility Managers Need to Know About ADA, VGB and More

By Rick Dandes

The Costs of Non-Compliance

The ADA guidelines are complaint-driven statutes, and are enforced basically by people lodging complaints. It's a federal law, but if you're not complying, someday you'll be caught, Caden said. And, if the Department of Justice gets involved, they have the ability to levy fines of $50,000 or more for not complying.

"Having said that," Caden said, "the DOJ is probably not going to get involved unless it's a big fish. They will typically not go after a small operation; that will be left in the hands of a local judge or local mediator. The agency goes after larger clients, looking for patterns of systemic noncompliance."

A second offense, however, can cost more than $100,000.

But what if there is no money available, as is often the case these days in small municipalities, such as townships or villages.

Keep in mind that for existing facilities, changes are required to the extent that the compliance is readily achievable. If a facility can't afford it, they can put if off until they can afford it, keeping in mind that barrier removal is an ongoing responsibility. And what is not readily achievable today may change in the future.

There are ways to lessen the pain of a tight budget. If your pool is part of a private entity, you could be eligible for a tax credit if the needed changes are made. It will pay half of the cost of a barrier removal modification up to $10,000 and it is available to entities that have annual revenues of under $1 million or 30 or fewer full-time employees.

Another way to lessen the pain is to buy equipment through a leasing program. That way, seen as a business expense, you can offset some of your taxes.

Finally, if you are a local entity like a parks and recreation department, look for grants. Kiwanis clubs and Rotary clubs are always looking for ways to improve their community, and if you are in a smaller city or town and have a tight budget, you can go to a local service organization and apply for the grant, saying that your changes will improve the community.

"Nobody has any money," Mendioroz said. "I hear that all the time and I understand that in this economy. But that doesn't mean you can't put some funds aside for capital improvements every year and this can build up over time. You do have to improve your facility from time to time, if for no other reason than you need to get people excited about something. There is no better thing than a new pool, a facelift to your facility, to garner attention. People will notice. And with the improvements, the ADA improvements go along with that."

No matter what your situation, know that when you are building a new facility, you are going to have to comply with the most current codes. If you have a good design team, they will bring to your attention what those issues are. It's more challenging if you have an existing space and you're trying to bring it into compliance with current code.

Remember, you have to make the facility fully accessible, from when you park the car to where a person goes in the front door. But that's usually not an issue when dealing with new construction.