Editor's note: The proposed free handicapped parking ordinance was tabled Monday evening for next month's Common Council meeting, after other commissions consider the measure.
A proposed measure that would allow free parking for the disabled will be review by Middletown's Common Council Monday night.
The ordinance, submitted by Democratic Councilwoman Hope Kasper on June 27, would allow free parking at any metered space to anyone displaying a valid handicapped permit.
“The decision to start charging people with a handicap permit to park didn’t come overnight,” explained acting parking director Roger Beliveau in a letter dated July 15. “In October, the Parking Department started phasing in having people with handicap permits pay when parked at a meter.”
Beliveau spoke at last month’s Central Business Bureau meeting on July 7 at the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce about the city’s longstanding practice of not charging those with handicapped permits for parking.
"It is a courtesy,” Beliveau said. “For 32 years, it's been free. Twenty-nine percent of the permits I have encountered over the last six years are outdated or invalid — I have confiscated 410 in that time.”
“Adding meters to all handicapped spaces will also stop the abuse. It won’t matter if the permit is outdated or issued to someone else, because everyone will be treated equally,” Beliveau said.
After he spoke, the 36 members of the CBB made an unanimous motion to oppose the amendment.
The state statue says only those with handicapped permits may park “without limitation as to time” — not, as many in Middletown may believe, without charge.
In a letter dated July 15, Beliveau wrote: “people with disabilities want to be treated just like you and I do, with respect. … They, like the members of the city’s Common Council who carry a handicap permit, want to be treated equal to the person sitting next to them.”
In fact, a special meeting of the Committee Concerning People with Disabilities on July 11 unanimously rejected the 11-14 ordinance with the statement, “It is demeaning to persons with disabilities who are seeking equality — not special treatment. The ordinance is patronizing to persons with disabilities who have strived for equal rights and access and we reject it without qualification.”
And on July 19, the Parking Advisory Committee unanimously rejected the ordinance.
The Downtown Business District also sent a letter to the mayor echoing the CBB's motion.
Tonight's Common Council meeting, in Council Chamber, City Hall, begins at 7 p.m.