In an effort to stay on top of federal policy, continue to provide services to all residents, and keep the town eligible for certain grant programs, the Board of Selectmen (BOS) adopted an updated personnel policy and appointed an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) coordinator for the town.
The new personnel polices were unanimously adopted meeting at the Sept. 11 BOS meeting. Town officials said the updates have more to do with complying with updated federal regulations than the town trying to get creative with the policy.
One such update, which involves incorporating ADA into the town personnel policy, requires that an ADA coordinator be named. The board named and unanimously approved Director of Human Resources Deb Milardo to the position.
“As we have talked about incorporating the ADA into our personnel policies, the town also has to have a 504 plan, which is more global,” she said.
A 504 plan is a federal plan designed to protect the rights of individuals with disabilities. Milardo said the town doesn’t need to approve the plan, but just be aware that it is being adopted into town policy.
“[The 504 plan] addresses the needs of all facilities as it comes to accessibility and it ensures we have the proper grievance procedures in place,” she said. “It ensures that we take steps that are necessary to be able to provide alternative means for an individual with disabilities to, say, see this meeting.”
Having omitted the plan in town policy caused a problem with a grant application last year.
“The town last year was applying for a HUD [U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development] grant,” Milardo said. “Any time you apply for federal money, there are certain requirements that you have to have in place for your municipality and one of them was the 504 plan. Madison did not have that, so unfortunately we couldn’t apply for that grant, so we are correcting this now.”
First Selectman Tom Banisch said the grant in question was going to be used for improvements at Concord Meadows. The project is currently stalled, but Banisch said the town will apply again for the grant this year in the hope of moving the project forward.
While ADA is being working into town policy now, officials said that doesn’t mean the town has not met ADA standards in recent years. Milardo said she has department heads currently reviewing all town properties for accessibility and said the town has already made several ADA-type improvements including adding a sound system to the main meeting room at town campus for improved hearing.
“Really this is an administrative role to make sure the trainings are in place, the websites are up to date, the policies are up to date for this, that we continue to monitor our facilities…Not all facilities have to be ADA compliant, but you do have to have one facility that can be utilized by any member of the public,” she said.
Selectman Scott Murphy questioned if ADA compliance would add to any department budgets, but Milardo said if there are any additional expenses, they will likely be reasonable.
“Perhaps we’ll have the three major departments have funding that can be used and they may already as part of their planned capital,” she said. “Cutting out a curb is not anything that is going to be a major cost and nor are we required to take on a major cost if it is not a reasonable accommodation.”