Four-inch mistake forces taxpayers to pick up expensive tab

BREMERTON, Wash. -- Four inches are one third of a foot. They are 10.16 centimeters. They are also worth tens of thousands of dollars to taxpayers.

The city of Bremerton will need to find $15,000 to $20,000 in order to fix a handicap access ramp in the town's Kiwanis Park. State law dictates that the distance between side rails must be 44 inches. The rail at Kiwanis is only 40-inches wide.

"It's a small oversight, but it is a big deal to us," said Wyn Birkenthal, the director of Bremerton's Parks and Recreation Department.

The rail complies with city and Federal Americans with Disabilities Act rules of 36 inches, but the state has that higher standard of 44 inches.

"We need to move one side of this handrail out four inches in order to meet the Washington state building code," Birkenthal said.

He says the city still is not sure where the funding will come from to fix the rails. Bremerton will not apply for a state waiver to fix the problem and will own the mistake.

Neighbor Anita Quinn shook her head in frustration when she heard about the rail.

"There's so many better things to use the money. To keep the park up. We need to help the homeless, anything but to repair a ramp that serves its purpose," Quinn said.

Birkenthal said that everyone from the builders to the design department to local inspectors all missed those four inches, until the state noticed and demanded a change.

Quinn wishes the city managed money better and had better attention to detail.

"It's just a waste of money," she said.