Monday, December 29, 2008

Salem Commission on Disabilities, December 2008 Meeting

Salem Winter Storm December 19th-21st 2008-12-21 001

These are the unofficial approved minutes of the December 2008 meeting.  Our regular minute-taker wasn’t present this month.  The meeting was called to order at 4:05 PM.  Present were Jack Harris (Chair), David Tracht, David Martel, David Moisan, Charlie Reardon (Vice Chair), Andy LaPointe, Jean Levesque (Assistant ADA coordinator) and Deborah Lobsitz.

Old Business

  1. Sidewalks:  The sidewalks discussed in the last meeting have been fixed.  Charter St. has a new crosswalk, as does Essex St. outside of the library.  The crosswalk at 10 Federal is fixed as well.  Washington St. has been repaved so the curb cut at Lynde St. is much improved.  Charlie reports of a problem on Congress St. at the hotel & Eastern Bank;  the driveway is in bad shape for pedestrians.  This has been ongoing.  The sidewalk outside St. Peter's church has been patched.
  2. Sovereign Bank ATM Access:  We have contacted Sovereign Bank (221 Essex, the old Shawmut Bank) about disabled access to the ATM, which is next door to the main entrance and on steps.  During bank hours disabled access is through the rear entrance, which serves the bank and the ATM, but it is not open after hours.  Jack will continue talking with the manager there.
  3. MAAB update:  MassHighway is supposed to appear before the MAAB regarding the bypass road bikepath, which was built without the required variances for disabled access.   The Commission asked Dave Knowlton, city engineer, not to let MassHighway sign off on the project until all the variances are settled.
  4. Variance at 116R Highland Ave:   This was a doctor’s office being renovated;  the builders had wanted some variances (exemptions) having to do with the elevators;  the MAAB declined most of what they requested
  5. 39-1/2 Mason St: This house is to be a group home run by Northeast Health Systems.  NHS  had wanted to not have to make the upper floors (of a 3 story house) accessible to the disabled due to the steep costs of doing so.   The MAAB accepted their request provided that they made the first floor, entrance and parking completely accessible.

New Business

  1. Leggs Hill YMCA:  Jack toured the new YMCA at Leggs Hill Road and was very impressed.  One local Paralympian was there to tour the facility and provided much first-hand expertise.  There was much discussion amongst Andy, Charlie and Jack about access to the facility, which is on an out of the way hill above Loring Ave.  Leggs Hill Road, the main access road, will be widened and a sidewalk built, but Andy was concerned that there was no railing between that road and the marsh below.   The 455 bus runs nearby on Loring Ave., but it’s a steep climb from there.  The Y is taking suggestions from prospective users;  David Martel will check out the new facility.
  2. Outdoor seating downtown:  Jack met with the Licensing Board to go over our concerns with outdoor seating that impairs movement of visually and mobility-impaired people.  The Board asked Jack to do some research on what other communities do about this and get back to them.  (Salem News article)
  3. Disabled Placard Enforcement:  The state has had a problem with people misusing vehicle placards for people with disabilities (Note to readers:  These placards, if you aren’t familiar with them, are a photo ID and a wheelchair symbol that hang on the front window of a car and are intended for use when a disabled person is using the car;  they belong to and are associated with the disabled person, as compared to HP plates.)  The City of Waltham has a program where they pay a police officer to go through parking lots looking for people with placards, and others without placards, parking in HP spots, and then running them through records to make sure the placards are actually being used by the person they’re registered to.  Proceeds from fines go to pay for the officer and any left over go into the budget of the Waltham Commission on Disabilities.  This has been very successful for them.  Both Jason Silva and the city Finance Director really like the idea.  Jack will keep us updated.
  4. Chair for stairs in emergencies:  Jack passed along some literature about a chair designed for public-safety personnel who need to move a disabled person up or down stairs in an emergency.  [the Sirocco Evacuation Chair.]  Charlie suggested that this chair be deployed at Salem’s elderly housing buildings.
  5. Salem Common playground report:  Jack talked with Steve Dibble (formerly with the city Parks and Recreation Dept. and now running his own company, Dibble & Sons Park Equipment, Inc.  (Steve Dibble has appeared before the Commission in the past and we were very impressed with his experience and awareness of the needs of children with disabilities.)  The Salem Common Neighborhood Association had Steve present plans for a new playground, a project the Commission has been working on for some time.  Steve also says there is no tot lot for children 2 to 5 years old at any playground in Salem, and the Common is the best place for the tot lot.  Andy wondered if another location, such as Forest River Park, is more preferable;  however, Jack pointed out that there are already many young families living near the Common and using the hotels and inns nearby.   Dave Moisan wondered what Mike Sosnowski, Commission liaison and Ward 2 councilor, was doing about this.  Jack explained that Mike did work with Steve Dibble to get a replacement swing there recently.    Charlie explained that he had to point out to someone, again, that the public housing complex at 86 Essex, the old Phillips School off the Common, has housed families and children with disabilities for over 20 years.  Jack is going to sit down with Jason once again to move this forward.
  6. Andy’s January Demos:  Andy will bring two devices to demo at the January meeting:  A GPS device for use by the blind, and an MP3 player also designed for use by the visually impaired.

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