WATERTOWN — The Watertown Police Commission, meeting at 7 p.m. Wednesday, June 12, took public participation, discussed road detours and addressed the speeding problems in town.
North Street resident Denis O’Sullivan went before the commission to ask that they take action and approve safety measures for North Street.
Mr. O’Sullivan stated that in 2005, the commission approved plans to make North Street safer by adding boulevard elements to the road and an island at both of the street’s entrances.
While the past police commission did approve the safety measures, the funding for the project was directed elsewhere by the town, thus cancelling the project.
Granite curbing for the boulevard and island elements were ordered, but most were put into storage after the project was canceled.
Mr. Sullivan believes that since the townspeople approved funding for the safety measures, it is the responsibility of the commission to make it happen. He said that the taxpayers have paid for the curbing and that it should be used instead of being held in storage.
North Street resident Moe Levesque went before the commission to request that the street’s speed limit be lowered from 30 mph to 25 mph. Mr. Levesque questioned why the commission has not taken action already.
“Our hands our tied,” said Commission Chair Richard Antonetti. “We are surrounded by state highways.”
Route 6 and Route 63 surround North Street and are under the jurisdiction of the state Department of Transportation, making it difficult for the town to make changes on North Street.
Some of the safety measures outlined in the 2005 plan are not allowed by the state, hence the project was scrapped and funding diverted to other projects.
As for the street’s speed limit, the commission told the public that the state DOT would not allow them to lower the speed limit to 25 mph.
Mr. Antonetti told members of the public that the commission will continue to address speeding on the street, but it will be difficult because of state rules and laws.
After taking public participation, the commission discussed a state DOT request to use Echo Lake Road as a detour route for trucks. There is a construction project taking place in Morris. A bridge is being replaced and traffic will be diverted through town.
The state DOT has the authority to divert traffic and trucks down Route 6 and Route 63, but needs permission to direct traffic down Echo Lake Road.
The commission approved the use of Echo Lake Road on the condition that the DOT perform a study to assess the damage done by the increased traffic flow caused by the detour, and for the state to compensate the town.
Residents should expect an increase in traffic on Main Street this summer.
The commission approved an all-way stop at the intersection of Vaill Road and Meadowcrest Lane. Currently there is just one stop sign at the intersection. The commission will add two more stop signs to make it safer.
It was also suggested that similar measures be made on Echo Lake Road at the intersection at Porter Street. The commission will discuss the idea at a later meeting.
Mr. Antonetti gave a quick chair report. He expressed the importance of the police department’s ability to deter speeding, especially with residents being outside more during the summer.
“Speed kills. This is the reality,” he said.
Mr. Antonetti referenced a post on the department’s Facebook page that mentions the department’s commitment to increase police presence to stop speeding.
The post alerted residents that the department has increased its presence on roads such as North Street, Vaill Road, Guernseytown Road and Main Street. The post asks drivers to be careful, respectful and not speed in neighborhoods. The post has collected more than 240 likes and dozens of shares and comments.
Referencing the post, Mr. Antonetti told the committee that there was a demand from the public to curtail speeding in town and it was their responsibility to do so.
Mr. Antonetti also proposed that the commission cancel its next meeting on Wednesday, July 10 so members can plan for the Fourth of July holiday.
He said that if there was a pressing issue, the commission could hold a special meeting.
Chief of Police John Gavallas gave his monthly report to the commission. He said that the police have put increased attention on speeding, pulling over vehicles and that the public is taking notice.
He also reported that the police department is midway through their DUI enforcement summer campaign.
With the town budget passing last month, the department will now be able to hire three additional officers, bringing the total up to 40 sworn officers. Chief Gavallas told the commission that the hiring process has begun to fill those positions.
He told the commission that drivers are ignoring the no left turn sign on Cherry Avenue. He said that the police are looking to enforce the new sign and he will keep the commission posted.
Those seeking additional information may view the meeting minutes at http://www.watertownct.org/content/10290/6536/default.aspx.