Adams Police To Hold Handicapped North Adams Prisoners

By Andy McKeeveriBerkshires Staff
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The Selectmen said they would support the agreement but tabled it until some of the language was 'cleaned up.'

ADAMS, Mass. — The town is helping its neighbor to the north comply with American with Disabilities Act standards by letting handicapped prisoners be held at the Adams lockup.

North Adams is under order from the U.S. Department of Justice to invest more than $1 million to bring city property up to ADA standards or find comparable solutions.

The city's hoping to one day replace its 55-year-old police station that needs costly repairs. To buy some time, Adams and North Adams have reached an agreement for the city to ship its handicapped prisoners to Adams.

Mayor Richard Alcombright told the City Council recently about the agreement. Planning for a new or renovated public safety building will be the "big piece" in complying with the ADA order, he said.

"It's good to be a good neighbor and help them out until they can get their facility up to standards," said Board of Selectman Chairman Arthur "Skip" Harrington on Wednesday when the agreement came to the board for approval.

Town Attorney Edmund St. John III said there were some language errors in the agreement that needed to be cleaned up before the Selectmen could approve it but all bases are covered. St. John said the agreement includes that North Adams Police will pay for any food and supplies as well as monitor the prisoner.

Additionally, there is language saying the city will be liable for the prisoners and the city agrees for legal defense if a prisoner files a lawsuit against the town.

"There will be no impacts on the town except giving up the space in the cell," Town Administrator Jonathan Butler said, adding that handicapped prisoners are transferred to the Berkshire County House of Correction as soon as possible. "It's fewer than one or two each year that they need this ... They are willing to pay the price for it and I certainly don't see the need to charge a neighboring community that is struggling like we are any more."

The move saves the city from making a costly repair on a station it doesn't see as using in the long term.

"It's a good gesture. We should offer to help our neighbors," Selectman Michael Ouellette said.

Also with the Police Department, Butler said a study weighing the pros and cons of contracting the dispatching out to the Berkshire County sheriff's office is still ongoing and he will not be proposing any changes in the fiscal 2014 budget.

Butler had proposed regionalizing the dispatchers as a cost-saving move in 2011 but it was fought by residents and the Finance Committee voted against it. The Finance Committee asked for more analysis and the town is now in its second round of grant funding for that study.

"It's a very complex study the Finance Committee asked us to do," Butler said on Wednesday.

The town is also in the process of trying to bring a farmers' market back to town. Butler said he is working with the Agricultural Commission in an attempt set the foundation for markets at the Visitors Center. The town had previously held farmers' markets but afraid of liability, it stopped allowing them.

"For years, we had that farmers' market and locals would walk to it. When it moved to North Adams, we lost a little bit," Selectman Scott Nichols said.

On Wednesday, Butler also announced the Board of Health Chairman Richard Frost had resigned. That seat will be on the ballot for the town election this year and the board may go short a member until then, Butler said. The Selectmen could end up appointing a new member at a joint meeting with the Board of Health if the remaining two members feel they need another for the few short months before the election.

In other business, the town has been meeting with businesses who may be affected by both the Berkshire Scenic Railway and the Route 8 roundabout projects. Butler said the town is trying to address any concerns business owners have about the major changes in the pipeline for the northern part of town.

Tags: ADA,   dispatchers,   fiscal 2014,   police station,   

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