NORTH ADAMS -- Whether the city will add or modify handicapped parking places downtown will not be decided until after the new year.
City Councilors unanimously referred the issue to the Public Safety Commission during Tuesday night's meeting, asking it to bring together the Commission on Dis abilities and the Traffic Commission and return with a consensus and possibly an ordinance revision on the matter.
The city's Commission on Disabilities recommended during the meeting that additional spaces be placed on American Legion Drive, as well as on Marshall, Main and Eagle streets, and also recommended modifications to spots on Main Street. The recommendation is opposite of one made earlier this year by the Traffic Commission.
"I just see this as being the quickest resolution," Councilor John Barrett III said of the referral to the Public Safety Commission.
The need for more handicapped spaces closer to downtown businesses was first broached in January by Councilor Nancy Bullett, after it was mentioned to her by several residents with the state-issued handicapped placards and plates.
Building Inspector William Meranti, who sits on the Commission for Disabilities, brought forward a report that recommends the addition of four handicapped spaces and the modifications of another two.
"The commission toured the downtown, finding deficiencies with the parking -- either no accessible parking or spaces that are not truly accessible," he said.
The recommendations include: a single space be added on the eastern side of Marshall Street, just north of the Berkshire Bank drive-thru exit; a new space be added in front of Greylock Federal Credit Union on Main Street; a space be added on Eagle Street, in the area between The Party Place and Desperado's; and a new space in the most northern space on the east side of American Legion Drive.
Meranti also said the commission recommended that a spot at the corner of Ashland and Main streets be moved back two spaces to improve access and that a space in front of the Verizon Wireless Store on the north side of the street needs to have a tree and trash can removed.
Traffic Commission Chairwoman Mary Ann King said her board voted against the additional spaces for several reasons, including the fact that individuals with placards and plates can park in any spot on the street and are not bound by parking restrictions and fees. She also referred to an informal survey of Eagle Street merchants, conducted by the commission, that showed no desire for a handicapped spot on the street.
King also raised several other concerns at a meeting of the Commission on Disabilities held earlier Tuesday night.
"I foresee these spaces becoming an issue for us," she said. "We have already had issues with a gentleman who has a handicapped placard, who lives in a condo on Main Street, being harassed about parking in a spot on the street. He has the right to do so. It's totally legal for him to park there whenever he wants and for as long as he wants. There are no time restrictions for handicapped spots and no parking fees. I think we'll see these spots be used by other residents of Main Street as well."
She said the only restriction on handicapped spaces on city streets is the overnight parking ban that goes into effect Thursday.
"I can understand that the merchants on Eagle Street didn't feel a need for a space, but if I was handicapped and wanted to get something from Jack's, I'd want a designated spot," Barrett said during the council meeting.
In other action, the council unanimously approved an appropriation of $15,000 from the overlay surplus account to pay off interest owed to Verizon New England Inc., as part of a court order resulting from the state's over-assessment of the company's property -- poles and buildings -- in fiscal 2009. The city is also paying the phone company a tax abatement of $50,440, which had been previously set aside.
Also approved were the adoption of an Americans with Disabilities Act Notice and a grievance procedure policy for those alleging discrimination because of a disability, as required by the city's recent settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice.