The June meeting of the Salem Commission on Disabilities took place June 16th, 2009 and started on time at 4 PM. Present: Jack Harris, Chairman, Commissioners David Martel, Michael Taylor, David Moisan, Andrew J. LaPointe, Charlie Reardon and David Tracht.
Old Business: Project Lifesaver update.
Andy led off the meeting by discussing Project Lifesaver, which was recently featured on Salem Now the week before [discussed last month—DM]. Andy gave a brief update: Capt. John Jodoin, and two officers from the Norfolk Sheriff’s Dept. were on Leo’s show to introduce the program to the viewers of Salem.
Andy: We’re looking for donations from groups and businesses to sponsor this. It started in 2008, needing $10,000, but now the equipment is free to the police dept. with only the cost of the bracelets to be paid for; once $300, now costing $99 plus $30 a month. It’s Lojack for people. When someone goes missing, the police go out with their equipment and can find the person in 30 minutes.
We’re one step closer to getting it in Salem. I have no idea why we don’t already have it. I understand the city’s trust fund has some money for it, but with the economy, I’m not sure what’s happening.
The Friends of the Council on Aging have $500 from Dominion Energy which we are setting aside for that program, leaving us with $2500 to raise.
Jack: I think it’s perfect for kids. You don’t have to go far to read stories about kids missing, whether disabled or not. And a lot of overprotective parents, which makes it more tense. If you have a safety net in place to keep these kids from being lost or abducted.
Dave Martel: There was a case like that in the news recently.
Jack: That’s why we have safety nets like that; it’s too bad we have to have them. My generation had kids in a neighborhood when the neighborhood was looking out for them, but people are transient these days, and the neighbors can be dangerous themselves.
Mike: It’s for the elderly, too.
Andy: No criteria for age. Just disability. There are more people than we know who have family members at home with Alzheimers or dementia or another disabilities whom they have to look after. They have to go out. They can’t stay at home at all times; they need to be out to shop and run errands and look after themselves.
Mike: My father had Alzheimer’s and was in a nursing home in Florida. He had a bracelet. They found him on a highway. Very scary.
Andy: The program is for these people in mind. I spoke with the lieutenant from North Andover, and they were one of the first communities on the North Shore to have the system. He contacted me, and he’s trying to get Project Lifesaver regionalized.
If someone goes missing and you don’t know about it for three hours, you don’t know when they left--they could be anywhere! When you report someone missing, Danvers, for example, will put out a APB and cruisers will look for the signal.
Andy: The bracelet puts out a unique signal [a code similar to LoJack] Being a ham radio operator, like Dave (Moisan), we do a thing called foxhunting where we look for hidden transmitters on 2-meter simplex [a mode of radio communications.] We just sit there and wait and find the signal. We did this at the Marblehead lighthouse once. It’s really an amazing thing. I think the guy who came up with LoJack must be a ham radio operator.
Jack: How often will the program air?
Dave: At least twice a week from now til July.
David Tracht: Is there a phone number viewers can call?
Andy: You can contact me (Andy, 978-745-4289) or the Friends of the Council on Aging. Checks should be made to the Friends of the Council on Aging and addressed to 5 Broad St.
After the program goes into effect, we’re going to start a fund for people unable to afford the costs. I’ll talk with North Andover again.
David Martel: Insurance won’t cover it?
Andy: Insurance may. Depends on the program. As you know there are many people with insurance you would think would qualify them, but that it isn’t the case.
Mike Taylor: It really depends. If a physician could be involved or not. Andy, some of the emergency call services waive the registration fee, I’m wondering if Project Lifesaver could do the same. It could entice people to sign up even if they couldn’t put up the $100 up front.
Andy: Project Lifesaver initially had a cost for the bracelets, but no monthly fee, but the costs went up. You can find out more from their website at http://www.projectlifesaver.org/
David Martel: Can the police help us with grant money?
Andy: I called John Keenan and emailed him all sorts of links from the website. I haven’t heard from him so far (in three weeks). I called his assistant Jody at the state house, that was the day before the show.
David Martel: You know George McCabe? He works in Tierney’s office.
Andy: The reason why we had the show was merely because the media was the best way to get my message out. Someone’s out there saying, “2500 bucks is cheap to pay for peace of mind!”, I hope.
Back in January, Charlie, and Dave Goggin, came with me to North Andover, and everyone was excited about it.
Andy: My mother is not one to wander.
Jack: You never know.
Andy: I’m disappointed in the Rotary Club. I wanted to do a presentation for them in Peabody, where we do the training for handicapped parking violations training. We were going to videotape it. That didn’t work.
Someone out here will see this, and I hope…
Charlie: This actually happened in Salem a year ago. It had a happy ending
David Martel: A man on Hanson St., a retired college professor, wandered off and was found in the basement of an Essex St. apartment.
Andy: If we’d had the system, we would have found him sooner. Someone with a tracking antenna would have found the signal and gotten out of their car and found him.
Jack: The Commission can be proud of bringing this to the city’s attention. We first heard about it at a conference three years ago. I tell people, as I tell the Commission, things don’t happen overnight. This program as close as we can get to being established and the most important
Old Business: Forest River Conservation Area
Jack: Old business. A resident of south Salem who used to be on the Conservation Commission asked us to look at the Forest River conservation area behind South Campus. The commission asked us to do some evaluations there a few years ago. The way we left it was that we needed to get the Army Corps of Engineers involved, but then the [Iraq] war broke out. We had also wanted to get into the Salem Woods and make some trails accessible to people with disabilities.
That individual was very proactive in getting us out to Forest River in the first place. I’m not sure what his concerns are now. I’m going to ask the Conservation Commission for additional information, but they probably don’t have info, time or money to do anything.
We can’t and don’t want to put concrete sidewalks on conservation land, but we should see what we can do to make the trails more accessible to people with disabilities
Charlie: Scott Maguire [former commissioner] was out on his wheelchair on the South River, and we found he could go on gravel, which is a natural surface for its surroundings.
Jack: We may need to look at that as Salem looks at its recreational areas to see how accessible or inaccessible they are. We will have ongoing discussions with the Conservation Commission and the Conservation officer.
David Martel: I heard from someone at the Hawthorne Commons condos next to Hillcrest Chevrolet. There are no curb cuts between the entrance of the building and the driveway. He has to go out to the driveway and go back in to get to the parking lot.
Jack: Call Tom McGrath or Tom St. Pierre and let them know.
David Martel: He’s asked me and wondered the correct avenue to resolve this; I asked him to be here today.
Andy: I was involved in a condo issue near Traders Way and we had a meeting with some people from the condo association. We pointed out the situation and got the problem resolved.
Andy: Getting back to the trails near South Campus, if I’m not mistaken, there’s crushed stone, which doesn’t work too well for wheelchairs.
Jack: That may be, but no one is coming to us telling me what we should use.
David Martel: We put peastone, in the case I was involved with; the area was very rustic. Charlie: peastone is loose, but gravel is packed down tightly.
Jack: That’s an issue we’ll continue to keep an eye on but I wanted people to know of this.
David Martel: It’s a rustic woodsy trail with not much use. Perhaps if it were accessible, there’d be more use.
Old Business: MAAB Update, “Sober House”
Jack: As some of you remember, on Salem St. in the Point, a gentleman was trying to build a “sober house” because he felt the need for it. Problem was, it was supposed to be made accessible by code but was not, so the city took him to court. The MAAB wrote a letter to the court explaining why it needed to be accessible. The court ruled in favor of the city.
In the meantime, the owner was arrested for fraud amongst other things, serving at least six months for probation violation with other charges pending.
I got in the mail a request for a variance for that building. His name was on it, but another person was listed. I understand the owner could not be involved in the project. The variance is for vertical accessibility and bathroom accessibility. I’m in touch with Tom Hopkins at the AAB and Tom McGrath and Tom St. Pierre at the city.
David Martel: We only know what we see in the papers. They were cited for lack of sprinkers too.
Jack: I want a meeting [with Tom, Tom and Tom]. That’s not to say the variance may not be reasonable but with the background of this property we need to see this as clearly as we can. I’ll let people know when this meeting happens. Tom McGrath has sent a letter to the AAB with his concerns and the AAB has seen the variance request and we want them to wait until we have our meeting.
Old Business: MAAB, Witch House
Jack: The other MAAB matter, as people are aware, there was a variance request for the Witch House which was accepted in full so the project will continue forward.
Old Business: MAAB, Bypass Road Bike Path
Jack: One last bit of MAAB business is the bike path on the bypass road. I got some confusing updates on that, but it is being attended to and hasn’t been forgotten. I remind the city not to sign anything until it has been resolved since it may cost money (in fines) and looks like it may. An ongoing issue as we speak.
Old Business: Ginny Morse, Disabilities Policy Consortium
Andy: Ginny Morse sent me a DVD that the Mass. Office on Disabilities did with her office on sensitivity training, at their office on Ashburton Place. I want to make copies for the Commission. Dave Moisan, can you make copies. Dave Moisan: You have permission from them? Andy: Yes. The reason I requested a copy was, we do sensitivity training but I want to see what they do. It could be a perfect complement. How many copies?
Jack: 9 members, plus Jean L. plus Mike Sosnowski.
Andy: And also for Mike Taylor.
Jack: To add on to that, that particular meeting was for emergency preparedness. There was a piece in the Globe about the fact that the federal government is not on top of having supplies to deal with the flu epidemic right now. I thought, “here’s why it’s important we think about and look at Salem because we can’t save everyone else, but if Salem has a good emergency plan, we can get through.” I hope the state and federal governments follow through, but if the reports are true, everyone needs to get on the stick and nobody is.
New Business: “Tavern on the Square”
There’s a new restaurant in Salem at the corner of New Derby and Washington. I’ve heard from several people that the steps into the new restaurant are hard to see and not delineated by visible striping for people with visual impairments.
The other thing you may have been following in the papers: The Salem Mission has done two things; they have closed their food pantry, merging it with St. Joseph’s [situated at the Immaculate Conception on Hawthorne Blvd.]. And, the Mission wants to establish a small medical clinic in the space where the food pantry was. I’m not sure what the guidelines and regulations are, but we would like to get up to speed. They also, depending on another issue, want to convert the church itself to housing. If that happens, that will tip the 30% and they will need to bring it up to accessibility.
[Note: Under current regulations, if a building is renovated and the costs of the renovation are 30% of the value of the property or more, the property must be made accessible by current codes and standards.—DM]
Jack: Mike, with your background, you could help us figure out what’s going on. The housing situation balances on what happens to the art group that’s using the building and wants to renovate the whole building into an arts building. The 30% wasn’t a issue for the arts group because they didn’t make that many changes to the building when they used it. If the project goes forward, they will trip the 30%.
The Commission has been involved with the Mission in the past; when they established the homeless shelter, we were very involved with them on the renovation. There’s a lift in there, and some other things that were done. We have established ourselves, but as always in any community, we need to keep an eye out for them.
New Business: North St.
Charlie: I was approached about a handicapped sign on North St. Someone was ticketed at a sign, but the sign was old and not valid.
Jack: Supposedly, there’s supposed to be a review of all handicapped signs in the city once a year. Invalid signs that are no longer needed are to be removed.
New Business: GPS Demonstration
David Moisan: Andy, I’d like it if you could demonstrate your new GPS unit for the Commission. It would be good for us, but I would also put the footage on YouTube. I had wanted us to do that but there haven’t been many opportunities—the last time I got to do that was with Charlie and Jack on the new voting machines last November.
Jack: We have a guest coming in to discuss his agency that helps disabled people over 22 get health care and residential care when they can’t look after themselves. It’s an area we don’t hear about publicly, but I hear about this very very often. After 22 and under 60, it is very hard for people with disabilities.
Andy: Milt [the person from the Conversation Commission] wanted to come this month but I suggested next month. Jack: I’ll talk to him and have him come in only if there’s something going on; I won’t have him come in if we can’t do anything for him.
David Martel: Entrance at Loring Ave.? Andy: It’s behind Harrison Rd. and South Campus.
Jack: I want to do anything we can in that area but it takes time. If we can’t do anything, it makes no sense to have him come. David Martel: It is a protected area and there are a lot of wetlands and lots of trails without rails. Jack: There are other groups that have worked on the area from time to time. It’s a matter of money, time and resources. If we can find out that out I can certainly get the information out to Andy and thus to Milt. We do want to make it accessible as possible but we can only work with what we can work with.
David Martel: What about the playground at the Common?
Jack: No official word. The city has promised them some money. They’re a long way off on their target of $250,000. But they’re still working on fundraising so far as we know.
The meeting adjourned around 5 PM. Next meeting is July 21st, 4:00 PM, Salem Access Television.