Van pool proposal for disabled residents rejected by Board

Many meetings in the making, a proposal to allow disabled residents to use a county parking lot for a van pool pickup spot was rejected by the County Board of Commissioners Thursday night.

The proposal by Commissioner Steve Brown first cropped up in late 2016 at the request of a disabled resident who is visually impaired and cannot drive and uses a van pool to get to work. The parking lot at the parks and recreation is within walking distance of his house and would alleviate a lot of strain on his family. Brown and staff have be steadily working to try and hammer out a policy that would be palatable to the rest of the Board.

“This would help this gentleman and his family tremendously,” said Brown.

The policy would designate specific parking spots at various parks around the county to be used for van pools, provided a carpool application is approved for physically-disabled county residents.

Concerns about setting precedents and creating additional work for staff were brought up.

“I’m still worried about issues with having cars parked there and how we control what cars are there,” said Commissioner Randy Ognio, calling it a potential administrative nightmare. “You’re basically making a policy for one citizen. If another person has an issue, are you going to make a policy for that citizen? That’s a bad precedent to set.”

Brown said that much of the county’s work is already built from resident input.

“Most of the policies we have come from someone coming forward,” he said. “I don’t know how this differs.”

Brown noted it would create a minimal burden with roughly only 100 residents doing van pooling around the county and likely only five cars taking advantage of the policy.

“Anything we do from recreation to public safety to public works revolves around trying to do what we can in the best light for our citizens without causing any undue problems,” said Brown. “I don’t anticipate any problems or difficulties with this. It’s very straightforward and so narrow that I don’t know how you can extrapolate this to a larger problem. I just don’t see how that can happen.”

Commissioner Charles Oddo said that, while he sympathized with the family, he was not ready to make a change, in part because of the burden it would put on staff.

“We are going to have to enforce this once it’s on the books,” said Oddo, adding that he could see it being something implemented down the road. “Most plants start as small seeds, and they grow. Government tends to be that way.”

County Manager Steve Rapson touched on some of the concerns. Parks and recreation would handle the administrative duties initially, with finance purchasing stickers and enforcement falling to the Sheriff’s Department and Marshal’s Office.

“My biggest concern is proof of disability. We’re not going to track down doctors and spend a lot of time validating that type of information,” said Rapson. “The problem is there’s an administrative burden associated with identifying those vehicles and making sure those are the only vehicles that are there.”

Were the policy approved, staff would continue fine-tuning the process.

“There are numerous administrative things we have to flesh out with this policy,” said Rapson. “First we need to see whether the Board wants to move forward with doing this.”

The majority did not want to move forward. The proposal failed with a 2-3 vote, with Commissioners Oddo, Ognio, and Charles Rousseau in opposition.

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Christopher Dunn has been the sports editor for Fayette Newspapers since 2011, in addition to running Fayette Game Day magazine. He is a graduate of Fayette County schools, as well as a graduate of Georgia State University with a degree in journalism. Follow him on twitter @fayettesports.


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