Town of Walpole
Planning Board Workshop Minutes
June 27, 2017
Present: Robert Miller, Vice-Chair, James Aldrich, Secretary, Dennis Marcom, Cheryl Mayberry, Selectboard Representative, Alternate: Joanna Andros, Mari Brunner, planner with Southwest Regional Planning Commission, Ali Gilleran, an intern at SWRPC and Walpole Police Chief Michael Pauquette.
The Planning Board decided earlier this year to take on the Complete Streets project to look at the transportation system in the town. This included transportation by drivers, cyclists and pedestrians. SWRPC is facilitating this project by showing the Board some ideal situations for different streets depending their use.
Police Chief Paquette was at the meeting to discuss streets in town that have the most accidents.
Mr. Paquette asked if we were concerned about foot traffic. Those present answered yes and added that the Board was interested in all kinds of transportation issues. He started talking about trouble spots in North Walpole.
He mentioned three that were the worst: the Arch Bridge; the area by State Line, where there is no crosswalk; areas of Church Street where kids get off the bus.
Chief Paquette said coming across the Arch Bridge he had concerns about lighting. This played into the fact that Liberty Utilities wanted the town to pay the cost for lighting for the past several years and the company is planning on turning off the lights. The town refuses to pay for the past few years but if it takes on the utility bill in the future it will cost $160 a month or $1900 a year.
Regarding the area by State Line there is a lot of foot traffic, he said. It needs a crosswalk, Ms. Mayberry said but the state won’t put one in and the town needs to get a grant to do so.
As far as the kids go, they get off the bus on Church Street and cross the tracks where there is no fencing to go home. These kids live towards the end of Center Street. He didn’t know if the railroad would fix the fencing along that portion of the tracks.
He also mentioned that the tunnels under the tracks were closed about 10 to 12 years ago because of incidents of shooting there. There was also concern for kids going down there unattended where there were transients who got off the train. It was thought to be a dangerous situation so the tunnels were closed.
The underpass was closed about 5 or 6 years because of flooding.
Walpole Village – One of his concerns was the sidewalk from the school to the village. It’s not very wide. The town spent a lot of money putting a guard rail so the students would not go over the embankment. But they are spilling out into the street when they walk home, he said. If they walk up to the village as a class, such as on Halloween, they are six or seven abreast. They also walk up to the Historical Society. He realized it could be expensive, but, he asked, what would be the cost of putting some kind of guard rail along there, he asked. Chief Paquette said it would good to find out how many kids walk up from the school. What is the percentage of students who use that every day?
Ms. Andros said maybe the kids should be educated on this topic. She remembers walking it every day as a child. It could be something the principal could talk to the kids about, she said.
When the school has a function and everyone leaves at the same time, a lot of people walk up to the village and they are out into the street, Paquette said. Maybe if it’s a really big function, they need some adults there to make sure this doesn’t occur, Andros said.
There’s also a question about Elm Street. The bridge across the brook has no sidewalk so you have to cross by the blue house. But kids walk up Elm Street where there is no sidewalk and meet the sidewalk at Pleasant Street.
Mr. Aldrich said he saw something that was good. Up at the Hooper Golf Course people had parked their cars. Then were two orange cones on the right of the road and two on the left side of the road. Adults were standing by the cones and helping children cross the road from the Hooper Institute, which is in the process of having its summer camps. The orange cones really caught his eye. He said it worked pretty well. It was like a makeshift crosswalk.
Also, the cones or signs might be a good idea when school gets out and there are lots of kids on that sidewalk. And, when possible, he or another officer could sit near the school in a police car and that slows down traffic.
Chief Paquette said he has had complaints and one or two Board members agreed that people go too fast on the busiest part of Main Street especially from where they turn the corner near Edward Jones to South Street. Because of the complaints, he said, he used his personal vehicle and sat in the car with radar and most were going 30 mph or less. But that 30 mph in the village sometimes seems as if the car is going faster, more like 50.
The speed limit is now 30 mph. Should the speed limit in the village be lowered to 20 mph? The state has rules so the Selectboard should check into it.
Bicycles should not be on the sidewalks and have to follow the same rules as a car.
The fountain. One of the demonstration projects was to put arrows indicating lanes by the foundation. People who observed it said they were helpful and drivers stayed in their lanes.
Chief Paquette said the last accident was in 2014. It was a fender bender, not a serous injury. Someone was coming up Westminster Street and someone was coming from the south. The car slowly moved out onto Main Street and got hit. So if you pause going around the fountain, he said, and a vehicle is coming too fast, there could be an accident. The one prior to that accident was a year and a half.
If the arrows stay as they are, there should be signage at eye level. He suggested making sure the markings that were put in meet the NH guidelines so it would be good to check with Mike Rau, the road agent.
Ms. Andros said she always treated the fountain as a roundabout. She stops and goes around the fountain on the right when she wants to had toward North Main Street. Someone was coming from the south and turning into Westminster Street, he/she should go around the fountain.
The observations are that people are driving around the fountain as marked and others are treating it as roundabout and there have only be two minor accidents in six years. So maybe things are okay the way they are.
Other major priority areas are the intersection of the Plaza and the turn into Walgrens, Westminster Bridge, which is called Dwinell Street, and by Agway or at the end of Main Street where a car has to merge onto Route 12.
Chief Paquette said the department has gotten a lot of grants – for cell phone use, STEP grants for radar use, DUI patrol.
Drewsville has speeding on Route 123 through the area where the store is and on the corner going down the hill. The Chief gets calls from the store owner asking for someone to monitor traffic.
Chief Paquette said that with the construction on Route 12 the police have to maintain a presence there so it will cut down on some of his current routine work.
When giving a ticket a police officer considers: What time of day is it? What the infraction is? How fast someone is going over the speed limit? What’s the reaction of the person being stopped?
He also said cell phone use and texting is like blindfolding yourself for five seconds while you driving. And cell phone use is not just kids, but adults too. It’s dangerous.
The Board received copies of remarks from people about the demonstrations over Old Home Days.
It was decided that maybe more remarks could be received from townspeople, so Ms. Andros will try to have something put in The Clarion with a link to SWRPC and Ms. Mayberry will make up cards with the questions on them and the cards will be put at the library and the Town Hall.
Priorities for implementing Complete Streets. The Board was unaware that they had to come up with priorities so they decided to discuss the topic more at the next meeting. The Board at its regular meeting will be told to come prepared.
However, the Board did agree these were definite priorities:
Walk from Walpole school to the Village
Crosswalk at State Line Store in North Walpole.
Bike Rack Installation has not been done because the Road Department is still dealing with problems from last week’s storm.
The next Complete Streets meeting is July 27.