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Scarborough won't regulate roadside memorials

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Scarborough won't regulate roadside memorials

SCARBOROUGH — Town councilors have made a full retreat from considering restrictions on roadside memorials for accident victims.

The proposed regulations were sent to the council last month, but dropped from the agenda for Wednesday night's meeting.

Council Chairman Ron Ahlquist said removing the proposed regulations from the agenda was his call, and came after discussions with Councilor James Benedict and Town Manager Tom Hall.

"It was going to be there, but I said wait a minute, all I wanted was guidelines,” Ahlquist said Wednesday.

The council was expected to discuss a policy where the town would provide posts and markers while regulating how the memorials could be decorated by families and friends of victims.

Kevin Grondin, 21, who maintains a memorial near the intersection of Payne and Scarborough Downs roads dedicated to the memory of his best friend, Steven Delano, had promised to fight the regulations with help from his friends and family.

"I'm very happy that they will not be pursuing this issue because I would have been devastated if I ever lost that down there," Grondin said Wednesday.

The memorial was created after Delano died May 9, 2010, as he, Grondin and their prom dates, Kayla Carpenter and Julia Waters, attempted to cross Payne Road. Their car was hit by a truck, rolled down an embankment and landed on its roof.

Grondin was in the hospital when the memorial was created, but has maintained it since he was released, often with help from Delano's mother, Cindy.

Formulated by the council Rules and Policies Committee, with Benedict as chairman, the proposed policy was introduced June 19 and intended to balance the desires of families and friends to grieve loved ones, while avoiding the creation of potential distractions for drivers.

The policy would have allowed floral and memento displays at Christmas, Easter and birth and anniversary dates of victims, and empowered the town to remove displays on public land, and on private land if asked by owners.

Benedict Monday said the policy was never meant to offend anyone.

"It was not our intention to be disrespectful,” he said. “We were trying to prevent a problem from happening.”

Benedict believed the balance would have been reached by placing a 16-square-inch engraved plaque on granite posts at each site. He said he is still concerned that roadside memorials can cause hazardous distractions.

The policy for council consideration did not say who would pay for the posts and plaques, but Police Chief Robert Moulton estimated a total cost of about $60 that included plaque engraving.

Moulton also said his research showed no municipalities in Maine had policies governing roadside memorials.

Benedict said the Burnham Road site in Gorham marking the Nov. 8, 2012, death of Scarborough resident Jason Fowler is an example of the type of distraction he wanted to avoid.

The town policy might also have affected a site dedicated to the memory of Alicia Robinson, who died March 11, 2011, in an accident on Gorham Road near the Eight Corners intersection.

Ahlquist, Grondin and Cindy Delano said Delano's memorial is on land owned by Scarborough Downs. The policy would have prevented the town from removing items there unless requested by the owners of Scarborough Downs.

Ahlquist said the policy still provides some guidelines for future discussion with families of accident victims. The site for Delano drew complaints earlier this year because the Christmas tree Grondin put up was not removed until early spring.

Grondin said he knew the policy would not be on the agenda after Councilor Kate St. Clair told him so in a July 11 email. He said he appreciated her concern.

"It means a lot that Kate helped out on this, along with a lot of others in this town that voiced their opinion about it," Grondin said. "When I woke up last Thursday morning to that email, I can't tell you how happy I was."

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.