Charlotte Selectboard hears speed concerns

SCOOTER MACMILLAN
Staff Writer

Of the more than 30 people who attended the Charlotte Selectboard meeting on Monday, at least half were there to talk about speed limits.

There were many opinions, and they weren’t all for slower speed limits.

Megan Price of Ferry Road was the first to speak during the public comment portion of the meeting. She has been at recent selectboard meetings advocating a lowering of the speed limit on Ferry Road to 35 miles per hours from the ferry to Greenbush Road.

Price said that dangers on the road include people looking at ospreys, elderly people with declining eyesight and people texting while driving.

She also advocated making Ferry Road a no passing road, painting the road’s shoulder lines and putting up signs that says there is a $250 fine for speeding.

Margaret Russell of Lake Road said that everyone wants safer roads, but she thinks there should  be a consistent policy for all roads and that the focus should not just be on Ferry or Lake Roads.

“We can’t have a policy of reducing the speed limit because someone is the most vocal,” said Russell, who is on the Trails Committee. She added that instead of having more money allocated for policing, she would like to see additional money allocated to trails so that the trail right-of-way along Ferry Road could be improved and completed to make it viable for walking and biking.

Mapping traffic accidents

Town administrator Dean Bloch shared maps prepared by town planner Daryl Arminius showing the accidents over the last five years. The maps were broken down by total accidents, accidents with fatality (there was one on Highway 7 north of town in 2016), accidents with personal injury and accidents with multiple vehicles. Board Chair Matt Krasnow said that this is public information showing where the accidents are happening and that the Vermont State Police use this data to decide where to patrol.

“The scope of work is not based on a complaint system; it’s data driven,” Krasnow said.

Rachel Daley said she moved to West Charlotte two years ago “and soon after moving here found out that it’s really not possible to walk, bike, use Ferry Road really in any meaningful way.”

Bonnie Heaslip said that when she moved to Charlotte 25 years ago there were no speed limit signs on Mt. Philo Road near where she lives. Eventually, speed limit signs were put up and it made a difference. It’s still fast, though the speed limit is 45.

“My son when he was a senior in high school was riding his bicycle on Mt. Philo Road and he was hit by a truck going 50 miles an hour,” said Heaslip. “That was the scariest thing I’ve ever been through in my life. Thank goodness his guardian angel was working overtime that day. He didn’t have broken bones; we didn’t have to go to the emergency room.”

Marian Paris, who lives on Lake Road not far from the intersection with Ferry Road, said that she drives that road at least two times a day, sometimes more, and she disagreed with Price who had said that people don’t stop at that intersection.

“I’ve never seen anybody not stop in all the times I’ve been through there, Paris said. “I’d advocate for a four-way stop there before I did anything else,” adding, “My daughter got hit there, while she was waiting to turn because a drunk was behind her.”

Paris argued against reducing the speed limit on Ferry Road to 35 mph. She said she could support reducing it to 45 mph, but that she “would really like to see it stay where it is.”

“I think that the speeders that you see on these roads live right there in this town,” Paris said. “They are not people racing to the ferry.”

State police contract

Representatives from the Vermont State Police were at the meeting for the biannual review of their contracted hours with Charlotte for additional hours of policing.

Since Charlotte doesn’t have its own police force, it has contracted with other law enforcement agencies to provide policing. Since 2015, the Vermont State Police have provided that service, for a price. Before that it was the Shelburne Police Department, and before that it was the Chittenden County Sheriff’s Department, said Krasnow.

The town of Charlotte is covered by the Vermont State Police, as is any town in the state that doesn’t have its own police, but in addition Charlotte contracts with the Vermont State Police for additional hours of policing as part of a voluntary program where officers who would like more overtime police the town.

Krasnow said that the town gets “an additional average of 32 hours a month for police services that mainly focuses on traffic enforcement because of speeding issues in town.”

Lt. Robert Lucas, station commander of the Williston Barracks of the Vermont State Police, said that officers patrol Charlotte as a part of its coverage area for Chittenden and Lamoille counties. When officers are policing Charlotte as part of the overtime contract with the town, they concentrate on town roads, such as Ferry Road, Greenbush Road, Hinesburg Road, Mt. Philo Road rather than state roads such as Highway 7.

“The last five years the Vermont State Police has been doing a great job at getting us close to those requested hours, especially when compared to previous years and at the lowest cost,” said Krasnow.

New playground design

Only one contractor (Miracle Recreation Equipment) has submitted a bid for construction of a playground at the Charlotte Town Beach, but they submitted two designs. Recreation Director Nicole Conley said that the donors for the funds to build it wanted some changes to make it more.

“One of the things we’re looking to do is have the playground really be accessible to all age groups,” said Krasnow. They want to have enough elements that it’s interesting to all age groups.

Recreation Commission chair Bill Fraser-Harris said he thought that they were very close to a final design and asked the selectboard if they wanted to approve the final design or if the Recreation Commission could handle it to expedite the project.

“I’m personally more comfortable with seeing the final design product before approving it blindly,” said Krasnow. “There are several time-sensitive issues that I’d like to see if there’s a time next week that we could set up another special meeting.”

He mentioned the draft review of the memorandum of understanding with the library, which was bumped from the agenda for this meeting, so they wouldn’t have to wait until the selectlboard’s regularly scheduled meeting June 3.

The board agreed to hold a special meeting next week at a date and time they will determine.

The selectboard opened bids for town road paving. Select board member Fritz Tegatz was absent from the meeting. The board voted 4-0 to give the contract to the lowest bid which was from D&F Paving and Excavating for the work to be completed between May 20 and June 30. This company has done this work for Charlotte previously and Road Commissioner Hugh “Junior” Lewis said, “As far as I’m concerned they’re the best. Never had a complaint.”

Julie Parker-Dickerson came before the board requesting permission to plant a butterfly garden at Quinlan’s Covered Bridge in the triangular open space at the corner of Monkton Road and Lewis Creek Road. The board approved her request by a vote of 4-0 with thanks for her efforts.

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