Methuen Access

Methuen Access

School parking project resolves ADA complaints

Disability Advocate Sid Harris speaks to city councilors regarding a Civil right Violation he filed against the city.
Disability Advocate Sid Harris speaks to city councilors regarding a Civil Rights Violation he filed against the city.

By Monica S

As posted in the edition of the Eagle Tribune on January 31, 20024

METHUEN — The high school’s parking lot is soon going to get a revamp, adding new spaces for sports as well as better parking to resolve alleged violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“This is a pretty extensive project,” Mayor Neil Perry said.

The project involves a complete revamp of the high school parking lot with more ADA compliant spaces as well as work for an ADA walkway and new tennis and pickleball courts. The resolutions were presented by Dave Jordan, the director of project delivery at Greenman-Pedersen Inc. in Salem, New Hampshire.

“There’s a lot happening and a lot going to be happening at the high school,” Jordan said.

The student parking lot features 10 accessible parking spaces, Jordan said, but they are not technically within regulation due to the slope of the spaces.

The high school will include over 20 ADA compliant spaces, following the proposed plans. Following questioning from school board member Daniel Shibilia, Jordan said the project is sustainable.

“We’re not just hitting the accessible parking requirement. We’re greatly exceeding it by providing multiple locations for accessible parking,” Jordan said, “which is the right thing to do.”

To address the ADA issues, Jordan’s draft of the plans proposed a reconstruction of the “loop” area of the driveway on the east side of the high school, which provides utility access to the back of the high school and ice hockey rink.

The “center island,” as Jordan called it, would provide new accessible parking spaces.

“By doing so we provide ADA compliant access to the main entrance of the high school,” Jordan said. “With the construction of a new sidewalk we will also provide ADA access to the auditorium entrance on the southside of the building.”

The area will still be usable for drop off and pick up, with curbed ramps as well as a flushed sidewalk with bollards.

Jordan is also looking to formalize the gravel parking area on the east side of the high school building. This would create almost 60 additional parking spaces, Jordan said.

On Ranger Road, toward Jackson Street, the sidewalk existing now “for whatever reason ends,” Jordan said. The proposal is to create a continual path along the north side of Ranger Road, providing crosswalk and curb ramps along where the buses go.

“That creates a continuous connection from Jackson Street all the way to the main entrance of the high school,” Jordan said.

Another sidewalk will run from the field house to the field area for sports.

“We’re addressing not just ADA issues but we’re addressing a real need to get parking for people who are coming to the fields,” Jordan said. “This is addressing a lot of needs at the high school.”

Along with the fields, Jordan’s plans include a proposal for seven tennis and six pickleball courts, some of which will be in the space where the dilapidated courts are now. Viewing areas will also be added.

“This gives the school a lot of flexibility in how to use the courts in terms of boys teams and girl teams and holding events versus practices,” Jordan said. “This is ADA compliant.”

There will also be an addition of parking on the backside of the high school to provide ADA compliant access to the ice rink. Superintendent Brandi Kwong said this will also allow for the rink to be more “secure” when events happen outside of the school day.

Perry called this a “joint project,” in which the schools will pay for part and the city will as well. The athletic field improvements and ADA spaces in front of the high school will be funded by the city through ARPA and capital improvement money, he said.

Based on the input from the city council and the public during Monday’s night meeting, the city will now go forward with the bid to complete the project.

The plans are “evolving by the day” still, Jordan said, and can incorporate comments like by Councilor Ronald Marsan to allow for a wider viewer area for wheelchairs by the baseball fields and tennis courts.

Monday night’s meeting follows a settlement over a complaint filed by Sid Harris, a disability advocate in Methuen, with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights in November.

The city agreed to bring the parking lot into compliance prior to the start of the 2024-25 school year. Superintendent Brandi Kwong said the majority of the parking lot work will have to be completed over the summer in just an eight week time span.

The Office for Civil Rights will not “monitor or enforce” the mediation agreements, according to its resolution letter.

In addition to the parking lot project, Harris said he has documented “hundreds of ADA violations” throughout the city over the years.

“I’m interested in making sure people in this community have representation, to make sure we are actually moving forward and creating an accessible community for everyone,” Harris said. “Access should be a given right.”


Follow Monica on Twitter at @MonicaSager3


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