Cape Elizabeth council approves solar-powered signals for town center crosswalk

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CAPE ELIZABETH — The Town Council Wednesday night approved a $20,000 set of solar-powered pedestrian crossing signals to be installed at the Ocean House Road crosswalk between Key Bank and the Coldwell Banker real estate office.

The recommendation came from the Town Center Pedestrian Safety Working Group, made up of Councilor Sara Lennon, School Board member Mary Townsend, Thomas Kinley and state Rep. Cynthia Dill, D-Cape Elizabeth. The group’s charge was to evaluate pedestrian safety in the town center, to review progress and make additional recommendations.

Lennon said the solar-powered crossing signals are the most efficient and effective safety precaution.

The cost of the crossing signals will be funded by a 2008 bond designated for town center sidewalk and drainage improvements. The activated lights will blink yellow when a button is pressed by a pedestrian waiting to cross.

Other recommendations included crosswalk painting in the spring and fall, in-road stanchions, pictographic signs at the ends of each crosswalk and flags available for pedestrians. The group also considered narrowing the road at crosswalks so vehicles cannot pass stopped cars on the right, and reducing the speed limit.

“Our idea was to implement these improvements one at a time,” Lennon said. “First the light, then the shoulder work, then the speed limit.”

Town Manager Mike McGovern said the staggered implementation is a “sensible approach.”

In other business, the council unanimously opposed the statewide excise tax and TABOR II referendums on the Nov. 3 ballot.

If passed, Question 2 would reduce the excise tax and offer exemptions to owners of newer fuel-efficient vehicles.

Councilor Anne Swift-Kayatta said the the auto excise tax is the third-largest revenue source for the town general fund and provides Cape with about $1.69 million annually. If the referendum passes, she said, the town will lose $758,000 for road maintenance and repair.

Swift-Kayatta said property taxes would have to increase 57 cents per $1,000 of assessed value and school and town services would be cut.

“This is a huge increase,” she said. “In addition to last year’s cuts in dispatch, street lights and heavy pick-ups, we would have to make additional cuts to municipal services.”

Question 4, the so-called second Taxpayer Bill of Rights, would limit state and government spending and freeze budgets at the current level, requiring residents to vote at referendum for any budget expenditures or tax increases.

Councilor David Backer said the referendums are reactionary responses to voters’ perception that elected officials are seemingly oblivious to their concerns.

“If voters weren’t frustrated, these referendums wouldn’t be here,” he said. 

Councilor Paul McKenney said he thought Cape Elizabeth town officials have listened to the public and have worked diligently to keep the tax rate low. He said citizens who support these referendums mean well, but may not understand how municipal government operates.

“This (referendum) is not a good solution,” he said. “A good solution is to become informed, vote, choose your elected officials and trust them.”

Amy Anderson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or