North Adams is undertaking measures that could serve as temporary solutions to handicapped-accessibility issues at the police station.
The city's public safety building isn't currently accessible to the disabled under federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) guidelines, and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) says ways of serving all visitors must be devised.
Mayor Richard J. Alcombright said the city has already arranged a deal with Clarksburg and is seeking one with Adams that would between them address two accessibility concerns for the station.
The first allows disabled city residents to acquire Firearms Identification cards at the Clarksburg Police Department on River Road, and the second will make policy of housing handicapped city prisoners at the Adams Police Department on School Street.
"The agreements will in a sense buy us time," Alcombright said Friday. "I don't see us taking on a [new public safety] building project within the next three years ... we don't have the money now. ... What I do see is us coming up with a solution, whatever form that may take, and this serves as a solution in the interim."
DOJ stipulated a three-year time frame for the city to bring its properties up to ADA standards in August, 2011. The total cost of such an undertaking was estimated at $1 million.
But Alcombright said further negotiations between DOJ and the city are in order regarding the police station. The
The Clarksburg and Adams agreements could prevent any capital outlay on the issue until a larger plan concerning the building's future is drawn up. Apart from individuals seeking permits and prisoners, others with disabilities can be serviced by phone, Alcombright said.
Adams officials said they would vote in favor of the agreement at a meeting Wednesday, after some language in the official document is cleaned up.
The draft states that North Adams will monitor, feed and pay any other prisoner expenses associated with a city prisoner at the Adams station.
"I don't have any concerns," Butler said. "Our facility, being newer, does have a handicap cell. [North Adams is] willing to pay the cost and I personally don't see the need to charge a neighboring community whose struggling like us anything additional for it. ... It'd be a good favor to do for a neighbor."
Butler said Chief of Police Donald Poirot approved of the draft, saying most handicapped prisoners end up at the Berkshire County Sheriff's Office and the city only sees one to two such prisoners per year.
Town Counsel Edmund St. John III highlighted the protections for the town in the draft.
"If something happened in Adams as a result of a handicapped prisoner of North Adams ... [The city] is agreeing to indemnify it, to assume all costs and to provide defense for the town of Adams," St. John said. "I think that's pretty good language."
"It's good to be a good neighbor," added Selectmen Arthur "Skip" Harrington. "If we can help out a bit until they can get their facility into compliance, I think we should do it."
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