Attorney General: Carbondale Fire Station Not Up to Code

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By Fanna Haile-Selassie
By Ben Jeffords

CARBONDALE -- Carbondale's new fire station on the west side of town was supposed to be in operation six months ago. First, the harsh winter caused delays, and now, the state Attorney General's office says the building doesn't meet accessibility standards. 

It has cited 30 different problems with the building. Carbondale leaders say they're being treated unfairly, because they've been trying to work with the AG's office the whole time.
 
It's not easy for Carbondale Fire Chief John Michalesko to see a brand new building sitting empty.
 
"Even more so now that we're over here mowing grass and watering the sod and trying to keep things going until we can move in," he explains.
 
Especially, when the current fire station is more than 50 years old and suffers from several problems. But Michalesko and his crew have longer to wait as the city deals with the new station's accessibility issues.
 
"Changes in the bathrooms, grab bars in the showers, grab bars around the toilets," lists Carbondale City Manager Kevin Baity.
 
Including the slope of the sidewalks and the fact that one of their three walkways has a curb.
 
"The driveway doesn't have to meet certain standards," explains Baity. "And so I could put a handicap person down a ramp, I could make that modification, but then the driveway doesn't have to meet those standards. So why would I put a handicap person down there, into an area that doesn't meet standards?"
 
Baity says a lot of the changes being demanded don't affect the general public, and he's not sure why they're necessary, since by law, the city can't hire handicapped firefighters.
 
"We feel that we are being picked on by the Attorney General's office in their rigorous enforcement of a standard that we feel doesn't really apply to certain areas of our building."
 
Now, city officials, the architect, and the AG's office are in talks about what can be done and who is responsible to pay for it.
 
A spokesperson for the Illinois Attorney General told News 3 their office originally contacted Carbondale nearly a year ago about possible violations at the fire station. She said their job is to ensure that all public buildings comply with state and federal regulations.
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