Commission on Disability Established With Council Vote

A new commission approved by the City Council Monday night aims to improve access in the city for people with disabilities.

The Council vote adopts a Massachusetts General Law allowing for the creation of a Commission on Disability.

“As far as I can tell, the City has never had a Commission on Disability,” stated City Manager Thomas Ambrosino in a letter to the Council. “Such commissions are beneficial to a municipality.”

The commission assists cities and towns in ensuring compliance with state and federal laws that affect people with disabilities and often makes recommendations about new policies that help meet the needs of disabled residents, Ambrosino stated. In addition, the existence of a disability commission is often necessary when applying for state and federal grants that fund infrastructure improvements to establish Americans with Disabilities Act compliant buildings.

“I think this is badly needed in this city,” said District 1 Councillor Robert Bishop, adding that he had recently visited a new McDonald’s in the city and was surprised to find there were handicap accessibility issues.

•In other business, the Council approved the appropriation of $1.3 million in Chapter 70 state funding for the school budget.

During the public speaking portion of the Council meeting, Supt. Mary Bourque and School Committeewoman Yessenia Alfaro-Alvarez were those who urged the Council okay the funding.

“The money is needed in our schools to put back cuts that were made,” said Bourque.

•Ambrosino recommended an increased sewer and water discount for senior residents, from 10 to 20 percent. District 6 Councillor Giovanni Recupero asked the City Manager to explore the possibility of giving seniors a 30 percent discount on their water bills.

“I do believe that our current 10 percent senior discount on water and sewer bills, applicable only to the unit in which the owner-occupant lives, is insufficient,” Ambrosino stated. “I agree a more robust discount is warranted. However, I also believe that 30 percent is too high.”

Ambrosino recommended the discounted rate go into effect with the Fiscal Year 2021 billing cycle.

The City Manager estimated the cost of the discount program will jump from $35,000 to $120,000 annually, with the increase absorbed by other ratepayers in the city.

•Council President Damali Vidot introduced an order requesting the Licensing Commission consider granting any function hall with a capacity of over 100 people the ability to apply for up to two one-day liquor licenses per month, provided the business is in good standing with the city.

•Councillor-At-Large Roy Avellaneda requested a conference with the city assessor to discuss the current appraised values of commercial and large residential properties and the City’s upcoming rate-setting order.

“There is a disturbing trend where I feel that a proper evaluation is not being done on some of our larger properties,” said Avellaneda.

•District 4 Councillor Enio Lopez requested that Ambrosino instruct the public works department add gravel and fix all empty tree pits that have an uneven surface level on Broadway.

•Councillor-At-Large Leo Robinson requested the Traffic and Parking Commission look at putting in a crosswalk across Williams Street between the police parking lot and Winnisimmet Lounge.

Robinson also tabled an ordinance introduced by Recupero that would have allowed residents to own four hens per parcel without Board of Health approval.

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