Making the city a more accommodating place

By: Andy Kozlowski, | Madison - Park News | Published January 27, 2016

MADISON HEIGHTS — Several years ago, Madison Heights City Councilwoman Margene Scott was having difficulty moving around and standing up for extended periods of time. Since then she’s recovered, thanks to physical therapy, but she learned a valuable lesson.

“I haven’t forgotten what it felt like to be so desperate and frustrated wanting to sit down somewhere and there being no seats available,” Scott said. “I started noticing all around me, especially the stores where I shop, there are no chairs for anyone to sit. So I thought if I’m going to do one thing in the near future, hopefully I can inform people of how essential it is to have a place to sit, no matter where you are.”

So Scott started with the town where she serves as an elected official. She realized that the municipal buildings — City Hall and the like — could benefit from more seating, inside and outside. That way, if someone is feeling fatigued or unwell, they would have a place to sit. It would also give them a place to unpack their items without having to place them on the floor and stoop over.

Scott thought this would be a good item for the goals plan City Council assembled last fall, but when she talked to Madison Heights City Manager Ben Myers, he told her it was something they could work on right away.

Within a few weeks, Myers had it all worked out. They started installing new benches in and around the municipal buildings, such as outside City Hall for people waiting in the morning.

While it seems like a simple change, the additional seating makes a world of difference for the elderly, the ill, or even those who recently had surgery that can occur at any age, Scott said.

She’s hoping the municipal buildings are just the start, and that local businesses will take note and start to add more seating as well.

“If you give people a place to sit, they’ll stay in your store longer, and while resting they’ll be thinking about how nice it is,” Scott said. “When you don’t have seating, they’ll want to get in and out as soon as possible.”

She also noted that the new seating will help reduce the city’s liability by reducing the risk of someone tripping and falling.

New seating isn’t the only way the city is trying to be more accommodating. Madison Heights Mayor Pro Tem Mark Bliss identified a way to improve the two restrooms at City Hall. Before, they were just single-person handicapped-accessible stalls — not exactly the best place for parents to take their children while visiting City Hall. But now they’ve been remade into family restrooms with changing stations for children.

They’re still handicapped-accessible too.

“A family that’s here to pay a bill or get a permit now has a bathroom that will meet their needs,” Bliss said. “For me, it’s about making City Hall as inviting as possible for our guests.”

He pointed out how the city is always looking for ways to serve families, including the recent survey it conducted, giving residents a voice regarding the future direction of the Parks and Recreation Department, and collecting data on the programs that families and their kids use.

The drive to be more accommodating goes beyond public spaces and into residents’ homes as well. This includes an expanded online presence, including a community hub at www.madison-heights.org that compiles essential information about the city, and offerings like the

Nixle phone and email service, which alerts people to crime in the area or weather-related emergencies. The city also upgraded its TV coverage with state-of-the-art digital technology for greater clarity, and it has a YouTube channel that archives City Council meetings so people can stay up to date.

“Even if they never step foot in City Hall, we want residents to understand what’s going on and the decisions being made,” Bliss said. “We want to keep everything open, simple and comfortable.”