In the weeks since Seymour resident Joseph Luciano filed an Americans with Disabilities Act complaint against the town, First Selectman Kurt Miller has refrained from criticizing Luciano’s actions. This week, though, he was actually nearly unable to do so.
“I’m utterly speechless, I don’t even have any idea what to say,” Miller said Monday after learning that Luciano had written to numerous state officials, including Seymour state Rep. Theresa Conroy, urging them to deny Seymour more than $468,000 in grant money. The town has earmarked the money, administered under the Main Street Improvement Fund, for improving its ADA compliance.
“This is money that we plan to use to do what he wants us to do, and he’s trying to thwart it?” Miller said.
Luciano, who lives downtown under a state program, uses a mobility cart to get around since a stroke left him with only the use of his left hand. He has complained that Seymour’s downtown area is not ADA-compliant due to the poor condition of some sidewalks and the lack of curb cuts to enable access to the sidewalks.
The condition of the sidewalks forces him to drive his cart in the street and prevents him from accessing downtown shops and restaurants, he said. Numerous news outlets, including cable and network television, have featured his plight.
In an April 6 letter to Office of Policy Management Secretary Benjamin Barnes, Luciano urged him to reject Seymour’s grant application, citing the fact that ADA has been the law of the land since 1990. Seymour officials expect to hear from OPM within a few weeks whether the grant has been approved.
“Approval of this trivial app would foolishly reward Seymour’s 23 years of neglect to maintain its downtown sidewalks, streets, and curbcuts — despite the fact that housing for elderly and persons with disabilities has been developing downtown,” he wrote. “Streets are in disrepair and hazardous to PWDs [persons with disabilities].”
Miller said the Main Street Improvement Fund was a state program for communities to improve the visual appeal of their downtown areas. Seymour would use the funds to repair sidewalks, improve existing curb cuts and install new cuts, in addition to installing new lights downtown.
Also, individual building owners can tap into the fund to obtain up to 50% reimbursement on projects to improve the visual appeal of their buildings. Zois’ Pizza, which has installed a brand-new facade, would qualify for about $50,000 in reimbursement if the state approves Seymour’s grant application.
Luciano, though, is adamant that Seymour’s plan does not improve his situation. For example, many downtown stores have doors too narrow to admit his cart or a wheelchair.
In a letter to Conroy, Luciano called the grant a “waste of money” and asked, “What good is making storefronts prettier, repairing sidewalks/curbcuts, adding more quaint streetlamps if we cannot go inside these so-called historic attractions?”
But Seymour can improve only town-owned property, Miller said.
“We can’t do everything he wants because these downtown buildings are private property,” he said. “We’re trying to piece together funding to do what we can.”
Ironically, Miller said, Luciano is opposing the grant funds because they do not address downtown businesses.
“But if he succeeds in stopping us from getting the grant funds, the one business that did make improvements, Zois’, will lose out on $50,000,” he said.