Vassalboro residents air anger over drivers on town roads

by Mary Grow

Some Vassalboro residents are fed up with people who do not drive safely, legally and respectfully on local roads, and they brought their complaints to the Sept. 7 select board meeting, not for the first time.

After a half-hour public hearing, Vassalboro select board members responded by creating a new committee to deal with one issue, the four-way intersection in East Vassalboro. Residents complained drivers going straight through on Route 32 exceed the 25-mile-an-hour speed limit, endangering pedestrians and local drivers trying to get out of their driveways. A nearby homeowner reported seeing vehicles ignore the stop sign on Bog Road and cross Route 32 at speed.

Town Manager Aaron Miller said the speed recording sign set up on Route 32 in July and August showed average speeds were not excessive, but occasionally drivers were recorded at 60 or more miles an hour. Residents Holly Weidner and Laura Jones questioned the accuracy of the result, suggesting that many drivers slow down when they see the sign.

Weidner and Jones urged select board and committee members to review the 2010 report on the East Vassalboro intersection, copies of which they distributed. Many of its recommendations appear to be still valid, they said.

Select board member Frederick “Rick” Denico, Jr., asked why nothing was done to implement the 2010 ideas. Weidner blamed a lack of collaboration and follow-through, including cost calculations.

The new committee, which Miller christened the East Vassalboro Village Project Team, will be asked to evaluate ways to slow traffic on Route 32. An initial proposal for four-way stop signs had little support Sept. 7. Other suggestions include a flashing light or speed bumps.

The committee’s suggested membership includes East Vassalboro residents, Miller and representatives of the planning board and the public works department. Anyone interested should contact the town office.

The second repeat complaint appeared on the meeting agenda as “Burnout Ordinance request,” referring to a request for a town ordinance to penalize drivers who deliberately burn out, annoying residents and leaving tire marks on the pavement (see the Aug. 24 issue of The Town Line, p. 2), including across the newly-painted stripes on Cross Hill Road.

Select board chairman Chris French referenced Title 29A, section 2079, of Maine law, which says, “Braking or acceleration may not be unnecessarily made so as to cause a harsh and objectionable noise.”

The concerned resident objected that the problem is less noise than damage, claiming rubber on the road wears out the pavement and reduces adjoining property values.

French said a local ordinance on a topic already covered by state law is not necessarily useful; and a local ordinance would have to be enforced locally, by Vassalboro Police Chief Mark Brown.

Lack of enforcement was the major problem with all the traffic offenses being discussed, board and audience members agreed. Denico reminded the group that at Vassalboro’s June 5 annual town meeting, voters rejected a chance to increase Brown’s weekly hours from 15 to 20 (see the June 8 issue of The Town Line, p. 2).

French said Brown does some traffic control, as his time permits. He listed some of the chief’s many other duties, a list Jones said she intends to put on the town’s Facebook page that she manages as a volunteer.

The other major agenda item Sept. 7 was a presentation by partners in TownCloud, the Maine-based company Miller recommends to take over design and maintenance of Vassalboro’s town website. Their business cards identify them as Christopher Haywood, Chief Amazement Officer, and Dennis Harward, Wizard of Light Bulb Moments.

Haywood said the seven-year-old company specializes in designing websites for small towns all over the country, including, in Maine, Bethel, Denmark, Livermore, Norway, Solon and St. Albans. Their goal is to make the sites simple, inexpensive, user-friendly, responsive and secure, to meet residents’ needs and minimize costs and staff time.

He demonstrated a sample website for Vassalboro, built using information imported from the current site. One example he showed was the agenda for the Sept. 7 meeting with the packet of accompanying documents, like the police report Jones proposed sharing on Facebook.

TownCloud’s proposal would cover the website and meeting agendas, not just the select board’s but other committees’. Haywood said some towns post agendas for up to 15 committees.

Miller said TownCloud was the least expensive of options he explored, at $3,754 for three years’ service.

Jones urged creation of another committee to collect residents’ input on what a website should include and how it should work. She promised a list of committee volunteers on Sept. 8.

Despite Harward’s reminder that the website can be modified any time, select board members postponed a decision to their first meeting in December (currently, Thursday, Dec. 14), to give more time for public input and a recommendation from Jones’ “Tiger Team.”

In other business, Vassalboro librarian Brian Stanley thanked the town’s public works crew for their help with ongoing renovations and asked about ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) funds for several projects, like improved ventilation and new rugs.

Because the library is a nonprofit organization, not a town department, select board members were unsure what kinds of work ARPA money could cover. They unanimously allocated $3,975 for a new front door that will be controlled by a push-button and thereby comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

On Miller’s recommendation, board members appointed Andrew Vear as an alternate member of the planning board.

They renewed the cemetery mowing contract with Scott Bumford, whose work was praised at the board’s Aug. 17 meeting.

The next regular Vassalboro select board meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 21.


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