The Board of Aldermen met for an agenda session Monday, August 2. Members discussed the town’s self-assessment of the accessibility of facilities and programs, a budget amendment for the police department and retirement benefits for town employees. The board also discussed adopting an equality resolution and the town’s decision to look into vaccination and mask requirements for town employees.

ADA self-assessment

The Americans with Disabilities Act requires state and local governments to perform self-assessments to ensure facilities and programs accommodate people with disabilities. Last summer, the town of Elon entered a contract with Stewart, Inc., a design, engineering and planning firm, to assist with the town’s self-assessment and transition plan. 

Ensuring facilities and programs are ADA compliant can include making sure sidewalks are wide enough for wheelchairs, or providing closed captioning for photos on the town website for those who are visually impaired. 

The town has also solicited public opinion regarding accessibility through an online survey, which will remain open through Aug. 16. Stewart presented preliminary findings to the board based on 3.25 miles of sidewalk surveyed. 

The transition plan, which representatives of Stewart said is a “living document,” is reviewed every five years to view progress and assess if further changes need to be made. It also helps determine what changes can be made quickly, such as stripping parking spots for better visibility, and what projects may be more long-term, such as structural changes to town hall to accommodate mobility impairment. 

“We don’t have the capacity to do it all in a six month time frame,” Roedner said. “It’s going to take us quite a while to address all of these identified issues, both in terms of capacity to do the projects and financially.”

The final transition plan will be presented following the required public input period.

Budget amendment 

The board also discussed amending the budget to allow the town of Elon police department to purchase a 2021 Dodge Durango for $30,000. Roedner said the police department would like to purchase the car because police cars, much like cars in general, are difficult to come by.

Each police vehicle has a life of about 7 to 8 years, Roedner said. The town’s plan had been to purchase hybrid vehicles for the police department to be more sustainable; however, due to vehicle shortages, Roedner said hybrid vehicles were not available. 

The board approved the budget amendment this evening due to the limited availability of police cars.

Retirement funding

North Carolina retirement policy allows for an employee to retire after a certain number of years in service, rather than at a certain age. For some positions, such as police officers, employees can retire after 20 years. Other government employees can retire after 30 years of service.

While this allows people to retire earlier, it does not allow employees to qualify for health insurance any sooner. To be eligible for Medicare, an employee must be 65 years of age.

Board members discussed the feasibility of the town to pay for a portion of a town employee’s health care expenses for those who retire early. Currently, the per employee healthcare cost is roughly $8,000 annually. 

In addition to bridging the gap for current employees thinking of retirement, offering a “bonus payment” could make the town of Elon more competitive in the job market.

“We have to look at it from the standpoint of being competitive and attracting good talent,” Alderman Monti Allison said. “I see so many cases where people who probably have over 30 years, probably should have retired, but they don't, because of the health care.” 

Alderwoman Emily Sharpe suggested looking into a retirement health savings plan, which would allow employees to contribute money to the fund throughout their employment.

The retirement funding was only discussed and not voted on yet. 

Equality resolution

At previous town meetings, the adoption of an anti-discrimnation ordinance or equality resolution was discussed by board and community members alike. The ordinance or resolution was not on the agenda, but board members decided to put the item on the agenda for next week.

Masks, vaccine requirements for town of Elon employees

The town of Elon asks employees and community members to wear masks inside town hall. Roedner said he is also looking into requiring proof of vaccination among town employees, similar to Gov. Roy Cooper’s decision to require state employees to require proof of vaccination or wear a mask at all times.

The next board of aldermen meeting will be held August 10, 2021 at 6 p.m.