Government Spotlight

Public Safety Committee hears hunting update, considers Lower Village safety

Select board liaison Tammy Donovan (l.) looks on as Public Safety chair Richard Maguire thanks John MacDonald of the Warden Service

| Joanne Cole |

The Public Safety Committee, at full strength and engaged after a period of dormancy, heard an update and safety reminders from the Maine Warden Service and considered traffic safety measures for the Lower Village at their September 28 meeting. The committee’s recommendations for additional signage at the Route 231 intersection now await approval of the select board, pending review by MDOT.

Hunting seasons overview. The committee heard a wide-ranging overview of hunting-related topics from Corporal John MacDonald of the Maine Warden Service. MacDonald, a Gray native now living in Pownal with 24 years’ service, brought a local perspective.

Given Maine’s “diverse seasons”—moose, turkey, waterfowl, deer, and bear—hunters are “in the woods now,” MacDonald said. Although he said most hunters are responsible about identifying their targets and non-hunters aren’t required to wear bright clothing, MacDonald encouraged residents to be “extra visible” now, including when dog-walking, riding horses, and mountain biking. MacDonald alluded to news the previous day, when a Leeds woman was shot by a turkey hunter and hospitalized. Sunday remains a no-hunting day statewide.

Among recent changes, MacDonald pointed to more generous bag limits (an “overabundance” of turkeys), and expanded archery hunts, including for deer in coastal areas. Extended youth hunting seasons now allow more opportunity for young hunters accompanied by an adult to be in the woods with fewer other hunters present. Youth hunters, under age 18, must complete a hunter safety course, in addition to being accompanied, he noted. Youth Day for deer will be October 23 this year and Maine Resident Day October 30. Open firearms deer season begins Monday November 1.

Asked about hunting violations, MacDonald said that hunting too close to a residence tops the list. Hunters need the homeowner’s permission to shoot within 100 yards of a house. Other frequent violations include exceeding bag limits and night hunting. They bring a $1000 fine and mandatory three-day jail stay. Baiting deer remains illegal – no “pineapples,” as MacDonald put it: piling apples under the pine tree to lure deer into range. To share suspected violations or concerns, call Warden Service dispatch 24/7 at (207) 624-7076.

Summing up, MacDonald urged awareness on the part of hunters and non-hunters alike. For the hunters, he encouraged checking the detailed regulations and updates in the Hunting Lawbook online and downloading the app to one’s phone.

Safety and signage in the Lower Village. [Note: the author is among a group of 18 neighbors who raised concerns about safety in the Lower Village and the flashing stop signs in particular, and spoke during public comment at this meeting.]

On behalf of a group of neighbors, Debra Smith had recently asked the select board to approve several safety measures in the Lower Village. These included actions on signage, road markings, and other steps an MDOT engineer had recommended for the Route 231 intersection.

Smith’s letter requested similar improvements for the intersection of Church Road and Gloucester Hill Road, site of several recent dangerous incidents, and urged a broader discussion of safety, speeds, and walkability in the area and throughout the community. The select board had referred the matter to the Public Safety Committee, which took it up at the September 28 meeting. Smith is a member of the committee.

In extended discussion, committee members disagreed over whether and to what extent the different and added signage and the other steps recommended by MDOT and estimated to cost less than $1000, would reduce crashes. Comments from Fire Rescue Chief Jon Kiernan, a nonvoting member of the committee, appeared to carry the day. Chief Kiernan acknowledged that signs can’t prevent all crashes, but “the more triggers” the casual driver sees, the more likely they are to stop. Even if they stop only “ten percent,” Kiernan said, “it’s pretty cheap and pretty straightforward” to add the signs and markings.

Ultimately, the committee voted to recommend some but not all of the requested measures. They endorsed these measures:

• disabling the flashing stop signs at 231 and instead installing oversized reflective stop signs there and at Church Road/Gloucester Hill Road
• trimming vegetation to improve sightlines
• painting white stop bars on the road surfaces
• adding reflective strips to stop signposts, and
• adding “Cross traffic does not stop” signs at 231.

The committee nixed a yellow bi-directional sign intended to call attention to the T-stop at Church Road. Smith noted that vehicles have run through the stop sign there, most recently one colliding with a utility pole and another with a rock that blocks the dirt track. Chief Kiernan spoke in favor of the bi-directional sign, estimated to cost $45, as “one more visual cue” to help drivers. Select board liaison Tammy Donovan and committee member Linda Chase opposed the sign on the grounds, among others, that the select board had not asked the committee to consider the Church Road intersection. The motion for the sign failed 2-3, with Smith and Nick Planson in favor; chair Richard Maguire and Chase and Donovan opposed.

The fate of even the recommended signs and stop stripe remains in doubt, however. Since the committee’s September 28 meeting, the select board has also met and taken up the topic. At the board’s October 4 meeting, select board member Tammy Donovan relayed word from public works director Ted Shane that signage at state road intersections must be cleared with MDOT. Accordingly, the board approved the recommendations in principle and directed town manager Christine Landes to work with MDOT to move the recommended signage and other safety measures forward.

To view the video of the Public Safety Committee’s September 28 meeting, click here. To learn more about the committee and its work, check the committee’s webpage here.

Committee members Nick Planson (l.) and Fire Rescue Chief Jon Kiernan view a video by resident Kim Lipp showing the flashing stop signs at the Lower Village intersection