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Is accessibility a priority in Greenwich? Disabilities committee wants to be in more powerful spot.

New Haven Register - 5/26/2024

May 26—GREENWICH — The town's advisory committee for people with disabilities wants to become a more permanent part of the town government and send a message in the process.

The committee is currently appointed solely by the first selectman, but members said they want to fall under the purview of the entire board of selectmen.

"Just being part of the first selectman's office puts us at risk," committee member Alan Gunzburg said Thursday.

"We need all three of you to stand up with us and to push this forward, because otherwise we don't have an inclusive and accessible community. At this point, I'm questioning whether we do or we don't, but I'm hoping this is a first step."

Gunzburg and the rest of the committee want to establish the "Board Of Selectmen's ADA & Advocacy Advisory Committee For People With Disabilities," and disband the existing "First Selectman's Advisory Committee for People With Disabilities."

The change is mostly procedural and symbolic, but First Selectman Fred Camillo said labeling the committee as a board of selectmen committee sends "a better message" about the town's support for people with disabilities.

Town administrator Ben Branyan said Thursday it "became very clear to us that the committee would benefit to elevate" it to a full board committee.

The selectmen also have sole responsibility for appointing members of the Energy Management Advisory Committee, the Citizens Police Advisory Committee and others.

The shift is also important, Gunzburg said, because the town has many issues complying with the American with Disabilities Act, the federal law that mandates accessible walkways, entrances and more.

"We have almost $40 million in ADA needs in our schools," he said. "We're way behind the eight ball."

Gunzburg also noted the "giant cuts" the Board of Estimate and Taxation made to ADA compliance on Greenwich Avenue.

The board cut $350,000 out of an $800,000 request to bring Greenwich Avenue intersections into ADA compliance in March and required the Department of Public Works to hold a public hearing about the planned compliance work.

"Now we have a meeting where everybody gets to say whether or not we should follow the law," Gunzberg said. "We should be compliant."

The public meeting is at 6 p.m.May 30, in person at Town Hall and online via Zoom.

Both the vote to reduce funding and the vote to add the public hearing split along party lines at the BET, but the Republican majority passed the measures with their tie-breaking authority.

Members of the board of selectmen said Thursday that they were in support of elevating the people with disabilities committee, but did not take any action. The proposal will come back before the board on June 13.


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