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North Adams Being Audited on Disability Policies

By Tammy Daniels
iBerkshires Staff
12:36AM / Wednesday, October 27, 2010
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NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The Department of Justice is planning to audit this city next month to see how it's complying with the Americans With Disabilities Act, prompting the city to revive the dormant Commission on Disabilities.

Mayor Richard Alcombright said he'd received a letter from the DOJ requesting information on the city's policies and procedures on accessibility, assistance and employment. It will be auditing all city buildings and building used for the public except for schools.

"We don't have a well-designed plan nor do we have any policies or procedures," said the mayor, largely  because the commission has been inactive for so long. "I hope this slate [of committee members] brings positive change."  

At the mayor's request, the City Council approved the appointment of Mark Patenaude, Ashley Benson and Nancy Rumbolt-Trzcinski, and the reappointment of Randall Kemp dand William Meranti. The committee will make recommendations to the city on accessibility and policies.

What was disheartening, said the mayor, was that DOJ doesn't provide any linkage back to funds to help rectify any shortcomings.

The council also gave final approval to a borrowing order for $150,000 for improvements at Windsor Lake after about 15 or 20 minutes of discussion. The funds will be used to build a new concession and bathroom at the Fish Pond, relocate the playground and renovate the bathrooms at Historic Valley Park Campground.

The matter had been on the council's agenda for Oct. 12 and was referred to the Community Development Committee. Lisa Blackmer, chairman of the committee, said it had met last week and quite a few people had shown up for the meeting.

"We need to spend money to make money is what we concluded," said Blackmer, pointing out the facilities had had no serious work since they were constructed in 1958 and 1969.

Frequent gadfly Robert Cardimino said the council was borrowing without being fully informed of the itemization of costs. Windsor Lake Recreation Commission Chairman George Forgea listed off some of the main line items; most of the cost is materials with labor being provided by city workers and McCann Technical School students.

Councilors voted unanimously to pass it to a second reading, saying the investment would aid in marketing the campground and bring in new revenue in the long term.

In other business, the council:

► Authorized the borrowing of $650,000 toward the airport runway reconstruction that was passed to a second reading last meeting.

► Referred a zoning change to the city solicitor following a public hearing with the Planning Board before the regular meeting.

► Passed to a second reading an ordinance change boosting waste-hauler licenses from $85 a year to $100, a change passed by the Board of Health. However, confusion over whether the board wanted the hauler or the commercial waste disposal license changed led the council to request Health Inspector Manuel Serrano appear the next meeting to clarify the issue.

► Adopted a so-called stretch code for new construction after a second reading as part of the city's pursuit to fall under the state Green Communities Act. The new code requires builders to use certain materials and the building be tested in terms of energy efficiency; it also allows the city to apply for grants.

The matter passed 8-1, with Councilor Alan Marden voting against. "I don't think it's time to put more mandates on the private sector," he said.
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