BRATTLEBORO — New measures to expand pedestrian safety will be coming sooner rather than later.
"I think it's important for us to do this to make a start," Select Board member Dick DeGray said during a meeting Tuesday. "I feel this is one of the best tools we have at our disposal to get out there and help traffic calming or pedestrian safety."
The Select Board unanimously approved of taking $30,000 from the current fiscal year budget to purchase and install traffic pedestrian safety devices. The Department of Public Works is expected to make a recommendation to the board within two months on how the money should be spent.
The town's Traffic Safety Committee did not have a recommendation after its Sept. 15 meeting, where discussion involved the possibility of purchasing four new flashing lights used to alert drivers of pedestrians crossing the street. The board had talked about it at a previous meeting, coming up with a $30,000 figure for the project.
"This didn't come out of thin air. We had a pedestrian hit on Western Avenue about two months ago," DeGray said. "That's when I started thinking about this."
Three days after the meeting, two pedestrians were struck by a vehicle in the area of Canal Street and Fairview Street. Police said the male victims, 16 and 18, were taken to Brattleboro Memorial Hospital for non-life threatening injuries.
In order to get other members on board with the proposal, the funding source in DeGray's original motion was changed. He said unanticipated revenue he was looking at from the 1 percent local option tax is at about $377,000 now and he preferred using those funds rather than the operating budget since the town only just started its new fiscal year.
Select Board Chairman David Gartenstein mentioned his plan to propose using the unanticipated tax revenue to ease the burden of property taxes and board Vice Chairwoman Kate O'Connor voiced similar concerns about taking from that fund. Town Manager Peter Elwell said a surplus this year was in part due to an increase in the 1 percent revenue but also a reduction in delinquent taxes and expenses ending up being lower than anticipated. According to unaudited financial results for fiscal year 2016, the town is looking at a $870,787 surplus.
"I don't think you should be so explicit about the source of funds," Elwell said, explaining that he could talk with the town's attorney to figure out how to best proceed.
Regarding placement of the lights, board member John Allen said, "Everybody has their pet peeves on where things should go. I have to leave it up to the experts or the people out there in the trenches every day."
DPW Director Steve Barrett was supportive of the $30,000 allocation.
The Traffic Safety Committee had talked about traffic calming methods and different safety tools, according to Gartenstein, who also serves on the committee. Besides lights, other ideas include putting signage for the middle of crosswalks, posting radar signs and intersection rebuilds. DPW officials provided input on major roads that might meet criteria for installing the lights.
"The committee was generally in favor of the town manager's suggestion that we plan for these things as part of the upcoming budgeting process," said Gartenstein.
Elwell said town staff planned to create a traffic safety category during FY18 budget talks. Needs would be addressed during those sessions.
"We're going to do that unless you tell me not to," Elwell told the board.
Board member David Schoales had worried about the timeline. Waiting on the FY18 budget would mean no money for this project until next July.
"Why not make the investment now?" Schoales said. "It just seems like why wait a year if we have an opportunity to do something now?'
Call Chris Mays at 802-254-2311, ext.273