Man suing the city of Trinidad over lack of accessibility


TRINIDAD, Colo. – A Colorado man is suing the city of Trinidad over a lack of accessibility.

He says the city is violating his civil rights and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Stephen Hamer has lived in Trinidad since 2014 and has to use a wheelchair to get around. The only problem? There’s a lot of places he can’t access.

Hamer said he’s tried to work with the city in the past but was ignored, and when little progress was made he said he was left with no choice but to file a lawsuit.

“I have to sue the city because if I don’t they’re never going to do it,” he said.

To prove just how bad it is, Hamer took FOX21 News along his route to the post office and pointed out problem areas along the way.

“Now this is a sidewalk, how do you like it?” he asked. “We have a stop sign, we have a tree, we have a lamppost, we have another tree,” Hamer said. “Do you see the point I deal with every day?”

Some of the problems are no curb cuts in the sidewalks, broken and cracked sidewalks and ramps that are too steep.

“This is extremely dangerous,” said Hamer referring to a curb cut in front of City Hall. “I have literally been thrown out of my wheelchair on this.”

In some places where Hamer can’t get on the sidewalk, he says he has no choice but to travel in the street.

“Generally people wave at me with one finger and then yell ‘get on the f-ing sidewalk, you piece of sh-t,'” he said. “I couldn’t live a normal life, I wanted to go out for dinner and I couldn’t get to a restaurant because I couldn’t get up on a sidewalk.”

City Manager Gabriel Engeland admits that parts of the city of Trinidad are not ADA-compliant and that there’s a lot of work to be done.

“We agree,” he said.

But he said they are making progress and are committed to making Trinidad accessible to all its citizens.

“We’re spending more than $700,000 only on ADA compliance this coming year,” Engeland said. “It’s about 7 to 8 percent of our entire general fund budget. To put it in perspective that’s as much as we’re paying fire response personnel, twice as much as we’re putting into 911.”

Engeland said it will take millions to get the city fully compliant, and they’ll also need time.

“So just curb cuts alone is about an $8 million problem, so if we take the $800,000 we’re spending this budget year and did nothing but curb cuts, that’s 10 years,” he said. “The fact of the matter is we have sidewalks that need to be updated, we have slopes on roads, we have items in parks, all bathrooms, doorways, there’s a lot that needs to be done. So even with the large amount of resources we’re putting behind it we’re talking about a generational fix. It took generations to get this way, it’s going to take awhile to fix it.”

“Do they need to make these changes overnight? Absolutely not,” said Hamer. “Do they have the financing to do it overnight? No, they don’t and I understand that, but my goodness they could do something.”

“We’re putting almost every penny we have behind this and we’re putting pennies that we don’t have behind this,” said Engeland.

Engeland added that the city is working on prioritizing projects and is seeking feedback on which areas should be addressed first, saying he wants the majority of the issues fixed within the next three to 5 years.

Hamer said he’ll believe it when he sees it.

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