More action urged to slow drivers down
Ahead of an anticipated onslaught of Labor Day weekend visitors, speeding was again the major topic of discussion at last week’s Winthrop Town Council meeting.
At an earlier meeting, the council considered options for dealing with what appears to be an increase in speeding drivers heading into and out of town in a variety of directions.
At that meeting, Mayor Sally Ranzau noted that the town has one electronic sign that tells approaching drivers how fast they are going, and the sign is deployed at various places around town. She said she will propose that next year’s town budget include funds for several more signs. The mayor said some of them could be permanently installed in speeder hot spots.
Ranzau reiterated that plan at last week’s meeting, and said that other measures would be considered.
Residents Tom and Carolyn Sullivan told the council that they had prepared and circulated an informal petition, signed by more than 20 of their neighbors on Castle, Corral, Bridge and Bluff streets, asking that the town “just enforce the speed limit” (which is 25 mph within most of the town limits).
Carolyn Sullivan said she had talked to Marshal Doug Johnson, who told her that some Winthrop businesses don’t want the town to be known as a speed trap.
Ranzau said she instructed Johnson to step up enforcement, but with only two full-time police officers, it’s difficult to maintain a constant presence even during peak hours. The sole officer on duty may be called to respond to an incident, leaving traffic enforcement unattended.
Ranzau said Johnson told her that speeders typically slow down when they see the electronic speed signs, and “when someone sees the police, they radically slow down.”
Councilmember Joseph O’Driscoll said that the town’s two officers have stopped quite a few speeding violators. “They are doing everything they can right now,” he said. “They are stepping it up as much as they can.”
O’Driscoll said the town must be ready with speed-control measures when the new Winthrop library opens on White Avenue, where Little Star Montessori School students are already using a crosswalk that will serve more people in the future.
Councilmember Bill McAdow praised Johnson’s efforts and said the marshal had tracked down and talked to a speeder who was reported by residents.
Councilmember Ben Nelson urged “less warnings and more tickets.”
“It’s serious,” Nelson said of the speeding problem, adding that he knows of 15-20 children who live near where Twisp-Winthrop Eastside Road comes into town and “people are flying through there.”
O’Driscoll said hiring a third officer would help. The town has had a third officer in its budget but had difficulty filling the position.
Ranzau said the speeding discussion with continue at a future council meeting that Johnson will be asked to attend.
In other business, Ranzau reported that, in response to council comments at a previous meeting about COVID-19 protocols, she checked in with a couple of downtown businesses that had posted “anti-mask” signs at their entrances. She said the signs were no longer there.
Nelson said the town’s efforts to consistently encourage coronavirus countermeasures appear to be paying off and “will make a huge difference for our constituents.”
O’Driscoll said that even operating under the state’s Phase II re-opening guidelines, local restaurants are “maxed out.”
“I’m surprised at how well it has gone,” O’Driscoll said. If the town had tried to open up more, he said, “we would have been overwhelmed … things would have gone wrong.”
“We’re OK now, but we don’t have the capacity” for even more tourism, O’Driscoll said.
Ranzau said she is continuing discussions with state officials to determine if the Winthrop Rink can open in early November. Unlike most rinks in the state, it has an outdoor skating surface. But the rink’s indoor facilities could not be used, Ranzau said. For instance, members of tournament teams would have to show up dressed to play.
“We have to figure out a way to keep it operating, and operating safely,” Ranzau said. She said she will meet with the rink’s board of directors to explore options. The rink is owned by the town but operated by a nonprofit organization.