Traffic calming measures on Queen Street, moving one of the speed tables on Key Rock Road and having a person direct traffic at the flagpole were among the concerns residents brought to the Police Commission Tuesday at .
All of the concerns have received a lukewarm response from the commission at one time or another in the past. However, with a newly elected body – most new to the post – some of the residents said they wanted to see whether their ideas would gain traction with the new commission.
Queen Street resident and one time candidate for the Board of Education Dan Shea was told he needed to follow the process for requesting traffic calming, which includes requiring 20 registered voters to submit a detailed written description of their concern to the commission for consideration, a traffic study and potentially a petition signed by more than 60-percent of the residents on the affected street.
"You're not going to get a consensus on anything," Shea said, after saying that many residents on Queen Street over the last decade or so have been asking for more safety controls on their street. "You are hired to make decisions, not to take a poll...If you don't want to make the decision, you should be sitting here."
Newly elected commission chairman Paul Mangiafico told Shea the commission "is not going to sit idle – we will do something."
"If these things have been going on six, 10 or 15 years...and we're nowhere closer than that, shame on us," he said. "I don't think we can afford to say that this is going to go on for 10 years and in 10 years, there will be new faces."
While agreeing to look into the issue, Mangiafico added that while he believes more vehicles are traveling Queen Street, that does not necessarily mean they are speeding, which would most concern commissioners.
Key Rock Road resident Richard Huisking also addressed the commission to ask that one of the speed tables recently installed on his street be moved to another part of the roadway that is more populated and along which he referred to as "dead man's cuve."
"You hear screeching tires all the time," he said, adding he understood the need for the speed table by North Branch but the other one needed to be moved. "Move it down south where it would help."
Ed Miklaszewski, of Chimney Swift Drive, renewed his call to have a person direct traffic during the morning, noon and evening rush periods at the iconic flagpole by Main Street and Church Hill Road.
"My proposal was to do a two-month study – two months of bringing in a traffic control person during commuter hours," he said.
The cost of such a traffic control person would be inexpensive particularly for the trial period, Miklaszewski said, adding he would recommend an hour and half each in the morning and evening and an hour in the afternoon.
"This has been a problem, especially coming up in the winter months, you are going to have incidents on 84 that close it down," he said. "They'll come through Newtown."
Commissioner Brian Budd, who is the veteran of the board, asked Miklaszewski whether he would support a traffic light at the flagpole to which the resident said no. Budd asked why.
"Same reason why you won't take the flagpole out," Miklaszewski said. "People in town are not going to put up with that."
Budd, who works on the police force of another town, said he supported a traffic light at the flagpole, particularly the kind that promotes the historic look of the borough, but having a person directing at the five-way intersection would be too dangerous.
"That is definitely a safety concern to have someone out there," he said. "You are risking the odds."
Miklaszewski countered that he believed the traffic control person outside of Hawley and St. Rose schools was just as vulnerable to being struck on Church Hill Road but the town still has that person doing the job.
He also urged the possibility of stop signs to which Budd said Main Street is a state roadway, and officials routinely deny requests for stop signs in favor of street lights. The town apparently was slated to have street lights at the flagpole, a project that would have been paid for by the state, but the project was pulled after many residents express disapproval, officials said.
Commission members said they recognized the safety issue at the flagpole and resolved to form a committee, which would include new member Joel Faxon and Mangiafico, to study the issue and whether the town had any chance of getting the state to approve changes that would be palatable to Newtown residents.
Police Chief Michael Kehoe said commission members would need to enlist the help of state legislators and traffic engineers at the Department of Transportation.
Mangiafico said the amount of traffic along that intersection made the issue a top concern.
"Time is not going to get it better," he said.
Correction: An earlier version of this article and accompanying poll had an incorrect description of where a resident wanted to move one of the speed tables on Key Rock Road. The error has since been corrected.