Recent data does not result in lowering speed limits

CHESTER, Vt. – During their Nov. 18 meeting, the Chester Selectboard has tabled making any changes to speed limits on three roads in Chester until increased enforcement has been put into place and new information might be gathered in the spring.

The board has received the speeding data captured on River Street, High Street, and Andover Road as part of an ongoing attempt to address speeding in town. According to captured data, High Street and River Street showed 85% are traveling the speed limit, though on River Street speeds were slightly higher. Board member Leigh Dakin pointed out that on River Street, there were no sidewalks and the area was heavily populated. The board also noted that 38 tractor-trailer trucks had used the road during the nine days of captured data, agreeing with Dakin, “That’s a lot.”

Andover Road showed higher speed limits with 85% traveling on average 49 miles per hour, close to 10 miles above the posted 40 mph speed limit. There were two “outlier” speeds of 70 and 106 mph recorded as well.

Board member Lee Gustafson’s assessment of the data was that most people were traveling the speed limit with a few outliers suggesting, “To me, this is pointing to more enforcement.”

After additional discussion, the board agreed to revisit the issue after enforcement had been increased and collecting more data in the spring.

Chester Town Manager Julie Hance expressed a concern from Police Chief Rick Cloud was that if speed is lowered and considered too low for the road’s design that it could create a more dangerous situation with people passing unsafely.

Two Andover Road residents, Ginger Roper and Ralph Falanga, both spoke and expressed their frustration with the board’s decision.

Roper said that she “respectfully disagreed” with the board, and challenged that the timing of the data collection was during a low tourist time in stick season, which does not represent the full picture. She also questioned how reducing the speed limit would impact anyone negatively since people were already passing her on that road when she was traveling the speed limit.

Falanga said he was “disappointed and disgusted” with the board’s decision, saying he had almost been rear-ended backing out of his driveway many times and suggested it was a matter of time before there was a tragic accident on Andover Road. He agreed with Roper that cars are passing them anyway and urged that the antiquated speed sign needs to be replaced.

“Is not the safety of residents a number one priority in this town?” he asked.

Board Chairman Arne Jonynas said that they are trying to keep citizens safe and that comments from both sides of the issue were valuable, even agreeing that he would be upset if this were happening in front of his house. However, that did not impact the decision, and he reiterated that the consensus of the board was to have more enforcement and to revisit the issue in the spring.

In an update to ongoing discussions concerning police department policies and procedures, Hance updated the board that she had reached out to town attorney Jim Carroll and the decision was made to work with the Vermont League of Cities and Towns, send all policies and procedures to them so they can do a complete review and write any procedures as appropriate and make sure they were in compliance and following best practices. Hance said that new procedures would need to be established with the eventual opening of the emergency services building since they will have a holding cell and processing room for the first time once that building opens.

The Selectboard approved the Way Finding Plan, which suggested and designed approximately 30 signs that will be placed throughout Chester, primarily to drive typical thru-traffic toward the town green and village area. The goal is to catch skiers and other tourists going to and from Route 103, to turn into the village to help promote the town and businesses. Implementation of the plan will be in stages, with a half dozen signs that are deemed the most critical directing to the village, as part of step one.

The board continued review of the budget, looking at the recreation and cemetery budgets as well as a new budget for the public safety building.

An increased dispatching fee that was discussed in a prior budget meeting has been revised. After more research, Hance discovered that “no unfunded mandates can be passed onto taxpayers,” meaning the fees cannot be assessed to the town and eliminating the need for those funds in the 2021 budget.

Acoustic panels for the Town Hall second floor will be placed on the ceiling versus on the walls for aesthetic purposes, and Hance and Atomic Sound will look at adding acoustic window treatments once the ceiling panels are in place.

The next Chester Selectboard meeting will take place Wednesday, Dec. 2 at 6 p.m. on the second floor of Town Hall or via Zoom. Link can be found on the town’s website.

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