UPDATED: Student to file charges against UT, UTC administrators regarding Cardiac Hill construction

By Hannah Lazar, Chattanooga, TN—A student who claims the construction plans for Cardiac Hill are an “imminent danger” to students plans to file criminal charges against University and system administrators.

Frank DePinto, a Chattanooga junior, sent administrators a document with proposed charges of reckless endangerment against Janet Spraker, UTC director of engineering services, and Robbi Stivers, UT system executive director of capital projects.

In the document, DePinto claims that the “60 concrete-Step” design for Cardiac Hill constitutes an “‘reckless and dangerous’ impediment to students, faculty  and visitors to UTC.”

DePinto claims that the proposed design of the hill is both an “imminent danger” and “reckless,” and he outlines reasons for these claims. He writes that bodily injuries may occur to students attempting to traverse the new slope/step design, and that the new design is reckless because it is not necessary. He writes that “especially blind-students” may have problems on the new design.

However, Chuck Cantrell, associate vice chancellor for communication and marketing, said the University followed all codes and regulations when planning for the construction. He said there is no issue of safety with the new design, and there is no reason criminal charges would be legitimate.

DePinto said in an interview that the route is being put into place for aesthetic, not functional reasons. He said especially the route to be put in place for students in wheelchairs is inefficient.

“It’s a torture chamber, and it’s disgusting,” he said.

He said officials in the disability resource center have responded with support to the new design, and they have said the new design will cause no problems for students with disabilities.

In a Sept. 11 student government meeting, DePinto presented his concerns to administrators such as Spraker and Bryon Kluesner, UTC’s adaptive technology coordinator. Kluesner said the disability resource center was a part of the planning committee for the construction and that he believes the committee knows how to “serve students with disabilities.”

Michelle Rigler, director of the disability resource center, added in an interview that Cardiac Hill was never part of the established accessible route for campus. She said originally, the established route went around the outside of campus, because the slope of Cardiac Hill was not accessible in its original form.

“The new design for the center of campus is going to give more options to students with disabilities,” she said. “I think it’s a much better move for our future.”

DePinto said he has a degree in landscape architecture, so “on a human level and on a professional level, I see a crime, and I want to stop it.”

He said he does not necessarily want anybody to go to jail, he just wants to bring the crime to their attention. However, he said, “if they’re going to commit a crime, and not take responsibility for it–bust them.”

No criminal charges have been filed as of yet, according to the Hamilton County Court Clerk.

DePinto said he plans to mail the charges of reckless endangerment, a class A misdemeanor, against Janet Spraker and Robbi Stivers, to the Knoxville district attorney today and take the charges to the Chattanooga district attorney tomorrow.

Spraker and Stivers were not immediately available for comment. Cantrell said Stivers’ office is referring any questions on the case to Cantrell.