Selectmen discuss improvements aimed at vehicle, pedestrian safety
WILTON - Selectmen reviewed possible grant opportunities to improve pedestrian safety at their Tuesday meeting, as well as dealing with a number of other issues in the wake of last week's town meeting.
Selectman began the meeting by welcoming new Selectman Paul Berkey, Jr., who was chosen by voters at the June 12 election. Berkey, who replaced outgoing selectman Paul Gooch, joined the other selectmen in voting to have Selectman Terry Brann continue being the board's chair for the ensuing year.
Town officials discussed a dangerous intersection at Depot Street and Birch Street, which stretches across a route some pedestrians use to get to the Academy Hill School or downtown area. Widening the road to include sidewalks would require a significant excavation of the upper slope or a build-up of the slope below the road. The Maine Department of Transportation does not have the funding to undertake these options in the near future, according to Town Manager Rhonda Irish.
A cheaper, short-term solution would be the installation of flashing yellow lights, triggered by pedestrians hitting a button, which would warn motorists. This system can be seen in action near the University of Maine at Farmington campus, with two sets of the lights spanning Main Street. Irish said the town could apply for a $25,000 grant through the MDOT's Safe Routes to School program to fund the system. That grant would require no local match if the town were to be approved.
Brann questioned if pedestrians would choose to hit the button and activate the system, noting he sometimes saw college students in Farmington not opting to use the lights. Irish said that an effort would need to be made to educate pedestrians in the area about the importance of using the system.
Selectmen also addressed traffic coming down dead-end Birch Street onto Depot, with the current configuration requiring motorists to use a mirror to try and see oncoming traffic down Depot. Calling it a "very tough, scary situation," Irish noted that when reviewing the intersection with MDOT officials she saw a vehicle almost get struck while attempting to exit Birch. MDOT will provide a yellow, motion-activated light on the Route 2 side of Birch, which will warn motorists that someone is trying to exit the dead-end street.
Meanwhile, in the downtown, selectmen agreed to walk portions of the sidewalk on the library side of Main Street. Across the street from the post office, the sidewalk ends abruptly and Irish suggested that a grant could be sought to tie it into the sidewalk further down Main Street. Some selectmen questioned why pedestrians couldn't cross to the other side near the library but did agree to walk Main Street with Irish to look at possible areas of improvement.
If the town did decide to apply for a MDOT Transportation Enhancement Grant, Irish said, it would most likely require a 20 percent local match.
Selectmen also approved a list of 12 streetlights to be shut off, to meet the $33,700 Street and Traffic Lighting budget approved by residents at the town meeting. A list of those lights, selected by a committee, have appeared in local newspapers and selectmen reported receiving complaints about only one light. Located on Corrigan Avenue, multiple selectmen reported receiving requests to reconsider turning off that streetlight, both from an elderly resident who lives nearby as well as other calls.
Selectman Russell Black commended the work of the streetlight committee, which considered public and pedestrian safety when making its recommendations, but said he disagreed that the Corrigan Avenue light should be shut off. The board approved a list of 12 lights, which will be sent to Central Maine Power.
A complete list of the streetlights impacted by the decision can be found here:
- U.S. Route 2 West, pole 8, located up the hill from the intersection of Route 2 and Main Street heading west.
- One at Preston Street and U.S. Route 2.
- End of Holmes Street and U.S. Route 2 (pole is on Holmes but light is turned to Route 2).
- Main Street, pole 2, at house before the cemetery near Academy Hill School.
- Park Street, pole 3, in the middle of neighborhood.
- Maple Street, pole 6, in the middle of neighborhood.
- Main Street, East Wilton Road, pole 15/52 at Flagstaff Street.
- Main Street, East Wilton Road, pole 23/59 at the two trailer parks
- Main Street, East Wilton Road, pole 33/69 at the day care.
- Pleasant Street, pole 2 at the duck pond.
- East Wilton by bridge and McKeen Street on the corner, pole 2.
- Bennett and U.S. Route 2, going down hill, across from Prospect Street entrance.
Selectmen also received an update on the three properties that have been a recurring topic of discussion at selectmen meetings for years; the Wilton Primary School, the old Tannery and Forster Manufacturing building.
The Primary School is now off the town's property roll, with selectmen signing the municipal quitclaim deed Tuesday evening. Resident Mike Wells intends to use the building to process biodiesel fuel out of recycled vegetable oil. The property was returned to Wilton in 2007 by the school district.
Irish said she is working on the paperwork for $200,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency to clean up the former site of the Wilton Tannery.The town has been actively working with state and federal agencies ever since selectmen voted to take possession of the facility in 2010, after foreclosure notices were sent to the owner with more than $75,000 owed in back taxes. In May, the town learned it could receive a grant through the EPA Brownfields Program to clean up the site for sale.
The Forster Manufacturing building, which is privately owned, is currently under review by the EPA, Irish told selectmen. The EPA's primary concern is the presence of asbestos in portions of the building, specifically the enclosed portion that is not partially demolished. Irish said she anticipates that either the EPA or asbestos abatement contractors hired by owner Adam Mack would begin removing asbestos in roughly a month. After that, demolition could resume.