City Council’s decision on speed bumps delayed

Kathy McCarty, Special to The County
10 years ago

     PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — City Council’s decision on how best to address the need for speed control on residential streets has been delayed to a later date, to allow city officials more time to discuss options and come up with a plan of action.
In response to residents’ concerns about speeding vehicles on Dudley Street, city officials approved the use of temporary speed bumps on that street about two years ago. While these apparatus have served their purpose to some degree on Dudley, residents of other streets have seen an increase in traffic — motorists using alternate routes to avoid the speed bumps. Councilors spent about an hour of Monday’s meeting discussing putting in a more permanent fixture — a speed table — on Dudley and how to address concerns on other residential streets.
“It’s hard to argue that they (speed bumps) have in fact slowed down many and diminished traffic, but other streets like Barton have received the overflow traffic,” said Sharon Campbell, a Dudley Street resident, during the citizens’ comments portion of the meeting. “Speed bumps aren’t ideal; the ideal is to drive neighborhood speeds, not highway speeds.”
Campbell noted that while the speed bumps have “done their job,” driving over them daily has been an issue for some of her neighbors.
“Tables are more gradual and reduce speed year-round,” she said.
Dana Fowler, director of public services, found himself at odds with City Manager Jim Bennett over the installation of speed tables.
In a memo to councilors, Fowler expressed concern over snow plow operation over such permanent fixtures and that money to cover the cost of installation would result in loss of funds for other needed projects, such as paving.
“While speed bumps and speed humps can be portable, speed tables are permanent fixtures. The literature I reviewed listed the cost for a speed table at $5,000-$8,000,” wrote Fowler. “My recommendation is that the city should not install speed tables on Dudley Street. Speed tables will slow traffic to 25-30 mph. My understanding is that the vast majority of vehicles on Dudley travel at 32 mph or less.”
Fowler noted snow plows would “have to nearly stop at the speed tables and the angled plow would drop snow as it rides up over the edge.” He said the money “would be better spent on paving” and that “it would be counterproductive to pave streets to make them smooth only to install features in the street to make them ‘rough’ again.”
Bennett spoke of visiting other communities in the state and how speed tables have effectively slowed traffic.
“Across this country and this state, communities had to go through a series of things to reduce speed, such as speed bumps and narrowing roads. But roads here are designed for removing snow. The guys (plow drivers) only have to hit a bump once to teach them to slow down,” said Bennett. “If we want neighborhoods where people can mingle/interact, it’s up to staff to figure how to accommodate.”
Chief Matt Irwin of the Presque Isle Police Department talked with councilors about the logistics of adding patrols and that while he could have officers periodically check for speeders, staffing levels would not permit him to designate an officer on a daily basis. Options were discussed, including pursuing grants for speed details.
Councilors also discussed how to address concerns on other streets, including possibly purchasing more speed bumps to install elsewhere and adding signage warning motorists to slow down.
Bennett suggested allowing residents to put in plants closer to the street or allow them to park in the street, as a way to slow traffic in their respective neighborhoods.
“We want to encourage people to live in higher-end housing — neighborhoods that attract those types to Presque Isle as opposed to Mapleton,” said Bennett. “Years ago we all knew what it felt like to be part of a neighborhood.”
Councilor Mike Chasse said allowing vehicles to park in the street would put people like him (in a wheelchair) at risk, forcing him to go farther out into the street to travel around town.
Councilor Craig Green suggested creating a group to review options. Bennett said he’d meet with the chief and other city officials, then bring the information to councilors at the next meeting.
In other business, councilors:
• Approved a special permit for music, dancing and entertainment, as well as a malt, spirituous and vinous liquor license for The Whole Potato Cafe & Commons, 428 Main St.;
• Approved consent agenda items 14-175 through 14-179, which included accepting the resignation of Timothy Lavin from the Downtown Revitalization Committee;
• Tabled discussion of winter sidewalk maintenance;
• Appointed Jennifer Trombley to the Downtown Revitalization Committee, to fill the unexpired term of Lavin, which expires Dec. 31, 2015;
• Approved the proposed ATV road access route, which includes Chapman Road, Riverside Drive, the State Street bridge and Exchange Street, as presented by the Star City ATV Club, provided proper signage is displayed;
• Approved the sale and/or disposal of used furnishings from the Mark & Emily Turner Memorial Library, with proceeds going toward the library’s enhancement fund;
• Adopted a social media policy for city staff;
• Received an update from Deputy City Manager Martin Puckett on employee wellness activities and how the city is working to promote employee fitness;
• Bennett advised councilors on the need to upgrade audio/video equipment used for such purposes as broadcasting Council sessions;
• Bennett advised councilors of possible alternatives for replacing the steps at City Hall, with options to be discussed at a later date; and
• Authorized the city to pursue the Preserve America Community Designation. The affiliation would give national recognition including a street sign, as well as the ability to apply for Preserve America grant funds.
In the manager’s report, Bennett showed councilors the new map featuring the bike path and walking trails in town that’s now available, thanks to a Healthy Downtown grant. He also noted that an ambulance would soon be based at the Presque Isle Fire Department and that delays were due to contract issues between Crown Ambulance and The Aroostook Medical Center and that he anticipates “those will be hammered out soon.”
Bennett said Council will hold a special meeting on Monday, Aug. 25 at City Hall to set the tax rate. “The good news is, we won’t have to spend any extra money. The bad news is it’s six weeks later than normal,” said Bennett.
Council sessions are open to the public and participation is encouraged. For more information, call 760-2785 or visit