1990 Federal Law Will Cost Gallatin Taxpayers $5.5 Million

Gallatin officials will spend $5.5 million of taxpayer money to satisfy the requirements of the nearly 30-year-old federal Americans With Disabilities Act.

JamiAnn Hannah, risk manager for the city attorney’s office, told The Tennessee Star taxpayers will pay for the changes “because it’s the right thing to do.”

She also said if it doesn’t get done then the city stands to lose a substantial chunk of state and federal grant money.

Hannah said she wasn’t a Gallatin employee in 1990, when the law went into effect. She said she doesn’t know why city officials didn’t work back then to comply.

When asked, Hannah said the changes are not urgent and that she and other city officials help the disabled, regardless of government mandates.

“I haven’t had any complaints per se (about compliance with the law). No one has come in and said ‘That cabinet is too high. I can’t see anything that is going on.’ We always accommodate, and that is one of the things we continue to strive to do and do currently,” Hannah said.

“If I can’t see someone because there is a counter in my way then I will move that counter, I will go to that person so they can see me, and I can help and assist them. I have not seen any areas where we are majorly deficient.”

People in wheelchairs can currently enter all areas of city hall and the civic center without any difficulty, Hannah said.

Gallatin officials will have to make changes, nonetheless, to all city-owned buildings, including those where employees tend to sanitation and public utility needs, among others, Hannah said.

As to whether the city can afford the $5.5 million, Gallatin Finance Director Rachel Nichols told The Star the city “is on solid financial footing.”

The ADA prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities. Business’ must make accommodations for disabled employees.

In a 2010 piece for Reason, television personality John Stossel argued the law hurts disabled people and lowers their employment rates.

“The law turns ‘protected’ people into potential lawsuits,” Stossel said.

“Most ADA litigation occurs when an employee is fired, so the safest way to avoid those costs is not to hire the disabled in the first place.”

The ADA, Stossel went on to say, has led to “some truly bizarre results.” Stossel cited the case of Exxon Capt. Joseph Hazelwood, who drank too much and let the Exxon Valdez run aground in Alaska in the late 1980s.

“Exxon prohibited employees who have had a drug or drinking problem from holding safety-sensitive jobs,” Stossel wrote.

“The result? You guessed it—employees with a history of alcohol abuse sued under the ADA, demanding their ‘right’ to those jobs.”

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Chris Butler is an investigative journalist at The Tennessee Star. Follow Chris on Facebook. Email tips to [email protected]









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