Topsham to take closer look at traffic enforcement

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TOPSHAM — Discussion at its Dec. 7 meeting about speeding traffic on Middlesex Road prompted the Board of Selectmen to discuss the issue on a wider scale.

Along with tabling a request to the Maine Department of Transportation for a speed study on that road – allowing the town to first try different enforcement practices on its own – the board unanimously approved bids to build a town storage building, and for stump removal and road stabilization on Pleasant Point Road.

After hearing a report from Police Chief Chris Lewis on speed enforcement, the board discussed what tools the town has to control speeding and what extra measures may be available.

“They want to give highlighted enforcement a chance, to see if that can affect speeds on Middlesex,” before having the state look into the matter, Town Manager Rich Roedner said Dec. 8. He noted that a call from a resident on that road – where speed limits range between 40-50 mph – prompted the discussion.

Along with speeding, the resident reported motorists passing on double lines and exhibiting “generally poor behavior,” Roedner said.

Because town officials hear so frequently about speeding all over town, the Board of Selectmen chose “to take a formal position,” and make speed enforcement one of its higher priorities, the manager said.

One means of doing that is the town’s use of speed radar signs, which tell motorists what speed they are traveling and warn them to slow down if they are exceeding the limit. The two signs are on posts and must be dismantled and re-installed by town staff to monitor a different location in town, which can be time-consuming, Roedner said.

Alternatively, speed sign trailers allow the devices to be quickly relocated. The town has the use of one, owned by the Sagadahoc County Sheriff’s Department, and may look into purchasing one of its own.

“They’re easier to move, and easier to place, and you can do it more frequently, rather than having to wait for Public Works to have the time available,” Roedner said.

That device, other equipment to enforce speed limits, and more police manpower are items Roedner and Lewis plan to discuss in the coming months through the fiscal 2019 budget planning process.

In other business, selectmen approved JARR Management’s bid of approximately $175,000 to construct a storage building at the town’s Public Works headquarters on Maintenance Way. The town budgeted $180,000 for the work.

Public Works Director Dennis Cox told the board in a Nov. 27 memo that the bids he had sent out for a 75-foot by 75-foot structure came in $100,000 over budget, prompting him to pursue a 50-foot by 50-foot building.

“I have revisited the use of this building by Public Works and other Town departments and determined that a 50-by-50 building could be sufficient,” Cox wrote.

JARR, an Augusta company, submitted the lowest of three bids the town received; the highest was $363,000.

The building replaces storage space the town has used in the old fire station in Lower Village since the new station opened in 2007. The older building, which has a deteriorating roof, will be demolished.

Selectmen also supported Barton Construction’s $35,000 bid for stump removal and road stabilization on Pleasant Point Road. Although the winds and current along the Merrymeeting Bay shoreline have been eroding the bank of Pleasant Point Road, the Oct. 30-31 storm created “tremendous” erosion, Cox said in a Nov. 28 memo to the board.

Barton will stabilize the bank with massive rocks and fabric in the three worst areas, which totals about 300 feet of shoreline, Cox explained. Several tree stumps which are too large for Public Works equipment to remove will also be addressed by Barton in the near future.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

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A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.