Bellows Falls Village Trustees discuss traffic safety near Central School

BELLOWS FALLS, Vt. – On Tuesday, Jan. 26, the Bellows Falls Village Trustees discussed the status report on a traffic study done last summer and the budget.

Municipal Manager Scott Pickup announced they were looking at a VTrans Small Scale Bike and Pedestrian Grant with a 50% local match. He suggested an upgrade to the warning signal at the four-way stop on Atkinson and School streets. Pickup said that numerous people including the Central School principal had complained of drivers not stopping.

Village President Deborah Wright agreed, “That’s a dangerous intersection.” She mentioned that last week Cass Wright had witnessed a vehicle missing the stop sign.

Finance Director Shannon Burbela wondered if rumble strips could be used before and after the crosswalk. Pickup agreed enhancements could help and suggested they make it more visible. The equipment costs $15,000 to $20,000, and he said they could apply for the grant to offset the cost of the upgrade.

Pickup mentioned the current system could be moved to the Westminster Terrace crosswalk. He said he wants to create something that is safe there after winter safety concerns were discussed at last week’s Selectboard meeting.

Wade Masure asked about the results of the speed study done last summer. Pickup explained the report uses an 85th percentile to establish averages. The streets with the highest average speeds were Old Terrace or Route 121 and Westminster Street in front of the Rockingham Free Public Library. Twenty percent of the recorded speeds were over 31 mph with both locations posted as 25 mph. This data was given to the Bellows Falls Police Department to direct officers for enforcement.

Burbela addressed budget concerns on compensatory time or paid time off and said employees are able to cash out comp time “and we don’t account for it.”

She said they budget “penny for penny” and encouraged the board “to reevaluate and include some sort of pay out” to account for overtime and unanticipated wages.

Burbela explained that when the dispatcher left, they were paid their accrued comp time and an interim was hired as well as a new dispatcher. She said, “We will do everything that we can to keep this budget.”

Burbela said that when there is turnover in the town, “We make up for that” elsewhere. “With the village budget being so tight, we need to add something for those turnovers.”

James McAuliffe suggested an aggregate number for comp time be provided at the end of the calendar year.

Burbela explained union employees can accumulate 80 hours, non-union 40 hours, and use their comp time for vacation or cash. She said, “Most people cash out before the end of the year,” and by the fiscal year end comp banks are empty.

The next meeting of the Village Trustees is Feb. 9. The Trustees meet on the second and fourth Tuesdays of each month in the Lower Theater of the Bellows Falls Opera House at 6 p.m. and the meetings are available through Facebook on Fact TV.

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