By Mike Rush
ST. LOUIS (KSDK) - Gardening is a way for many people to unwind and relax. It's what a local teacher had hoped to do this summer, but as "5 On Your Side's" Mike Rush shows us, the backyard oasis she hoped for, turned out like an obstacle course.
Summer break is winding down and Math teacher Michelle Steger's backyard stay-cation hasn't gone as planned.
"I take my summer very seriously," said Steger. "And so I wanted to spend a lot of time out here, and I really wanted to grow food and grow flowers."
Last August, Steger decided to broaden her horizons, getting off the deck and into the yard. She hired contractor Richard Katz of Richard Katz Designs to not only make her backyard beautiful, but accessible.
"What I wanted was a trail path snaking through my backyard so that I could reach everything to garden," Steger said.
Steger said the contractor's plan was to carry out the project in two phases. She paid $4,000 in cash for Phase-1 and said several items on the contract still have not been completed. She also said planters Katz worked on do not accommodate her wheelchair, and plants she was promised still have yet to be planted.
"He wanted another $3,500 for the second phase and talked about so many things that unfortunately didn't end up in the contract, so now he's saying that wasn't part of the job," Steger said.
Steger said the biggest problem is the slope, which is so bad it makes it almost impossible for her to navigate her wheelchair. Steger claims she had repeated conversations with Richard Katz about making the surface meet standards set by the Americans with Disabilities Act. Even though ADA standards aren't mandatory in homes, Steger felt strongly about meeting them.
"One of the interesting things I do with my kids is talk about the slope and the ADA, since that's a good math problem, and what it should be, and that's a lot what I talked about with the contractor to get this level so it was safe for the wheelchair," she said.
5 On Your Side contacted Paraquad, an organization that provides outreach and educates the public about ADA and accessibility issues, to test the slope of Steger's patio to see if ADA standards were met.
Kim Lackey, a Paraquad representative, began her analysis of the patio with Steger's ramp.
"The running slope here is showing 7.0, which is compliant with the ADA standard, because the ADA standard gives a maximum slope of 8.3 percent," said Lackey.
Then she moved to the patio.
"We found several areas that were above 4 percent, 5 percent, a little bit further up that way, as much as 10 percent," said Lackey.
That's a big deal?
"Yes, absolutely," said Lackey.
While Steger's patio concerns are valid, Lackey said Steger made a common mistake. She and Richard Katz talked about what she wanted, but ultimately, you've got to have it on paper.
"So if you want it to have that two-percent slope in either direction then it should really be specifically spelled out in a contract," Lackey said.
Nearly a year into the job, Steger and Katz continue to go back and forth. Katz hasn't worked on the backyard since May.
"I would like just my money back so I can go somewhere else and start over," Steger said, "so that I can get a level path that I can actually use, and get on with my garden."
In a phone conversation, Richard Katz disputed many of Steger's claims, but he told 5 On Your Side he wants to work with her to make her project right. We are working with the two parties to come up with an amicable solution.
If your contractor's stumped about standards set by the ADA, Paraquad can help.