Our Town Belfast proposes downtown safety changes

By Kendra Caruso | Sep 03, 2019

Belfast — During the City Council's Aug. 26 meeting, Our Town Belfast proposed several safety changes downtown, including new signs, crosswalks, a one-way entrance and prohibition of bike-riding on city sidewalks.

The proposals, spurred by a busy summer downtown, came after City Manager Joe Slocum drafted a list of changes and prohibitions at a previous council meeting.

“Suddenly, when a local municipality decides to change a stop sign here or change something there, everybody in town thinks ‘oh this is the time to change the speed on my road, to create a cul-de-sac on my road, to make it a dead end, to put a sidewalk on it,’” Slocum said. “So, we have people coming out of the walls with suggestions, which is great, but I’m having a hard time keeping up with them … with all the other stuff we have to do.”

Skateboarding is already banned on downtown sidewalks, but the organization wants signs placed stating that. The organization also would like the council to ban bicycling on sidewalks, with corresponding signs.

Councilors felt that putting more signs up along Main and High streets would suffocate the area. They talked about limiting signage by placing new signs where they can be seen by most people traveling through downtown.

“My concern with this is that we’re changing our ordinance, or in the process, for city property and we’re in the process of considering dogs on leashes and smoking and those things are also going to need signs,” Mayor Samantha Paradis said.

“… I would want the other issues that we are currently addressing to all be on the same signage so we don’t have five different signs 10 feet from each other …. I just envision it being a potpourri of signs,” she said.

Councilor Mike Hurley was concerned about skateboarders feeling targeted and lashing out.

“Let’s all agree, I think anything on four wheels or two wheels on sidewalks is ridiculous, unless it’s a wheelchair,” Hurley said. “ … I can tell you, the chief and the police do not wish to have this as a war with the skateboarders because that’s what it’ll turn into very quickly.”

Our Town Belfast Executive Director Zach Schmesser went on to discuss changes to the Washington Street public parking lot’s lower driveway on Main Street. He discussed options including adding a crosswalk, placing a stop sign or changing to a one-way-only entrance.

He argued there is not enough of a sight-line around parked cars to safely exit and it is difficult to see pedestrians as they walk down the hill toward the harbor. The most-discussed idea was the one-way entrance.

Councilors had mixed reactions. City Councilor Eric Sanders said he supports one-way parking lot entrances. Other councilors were worried that allowing traffic to exit only from one driveway would bind up traffic exiting through the upper access road by Traci's restaurant.

“If you’re going to have all the traffic in that parking lot come out on Washington Street, when it’s busy, there’s often almost a constant flow of pedestrians crossing Washington Street,” City Councilor Neal Harkness said. “And the visibility there, I don’t think is much better than at the other end. The one-way in is fine but the one-way out I think is going to be a real mess.”

Adding a crosswalk between upper Main Street and lower Main Street also was discussed. Councilors decided the best place for a crosswalk would be near the intersection of Federal and Main streets to the other side of Main Street.

The council voted to consider the items in a first reading at a later meeting.

In other business, councilors approved a tree planting in Heritage Park honoring Laila Al-Matrouk, a local teen who died Aug. 7, 2018.

The proposal by Parks and Recreation Director Norm Poirier and local resident Derek DeJoy states that the city will provide labor and a granite block for the monument, but DeJoy’s committee will cover all other costs and resources.

“Her spirit sort of infused Belfast. For a young woman, she was quite remarkable. She was very engaging; she was a social activist,” DeJoy said.

In response to a proposal from Hurley, councilors voted to declare browntail moths a public nuisance in an effort to raise awareness at the state level of the moths as a public health issue.

Symptoms of outbreaks caused by browntail moths' toxic hairs are a red, bumpy and itchy skin rash that lasts from a few hours to several days. Airborne hairs can cause respiratory issues. People who have concerns should contact their local health care provider or the poison center at 1-800-222-1222.


Comments (4)
Posted by: Eric Schrader | Sep 05, 2019 19:49

How is calling Slocum "Slow Joe" bully tactics when he keeps doing and saying really stupid things like "give her and her two daughters a tent and a sleeping bag and they'll be fine". Is that the attitude of a caring civil servant (remember, we do pay his salary) that we want as a City Manager for the next decade? (He is getting a little long in the tooth). He almost single handedly killed the Paul Naron harbor deal by exclaiming "why doesn't he just withdraw his application" after 5 months of going back and forth. The City got its' easement no thanks to him. I lay out the facts as I see them and that fact that you can own a piece of property downtown and walk past the Blue Monster all these years tells me that either you don't care about that eyesore or you don't recognize it as such ignoring the negative effect it has on other businesses in the area. Have you ever looked at the City Charter and understand that it is the law of the land in Belfast and when you look the other way on something as ugly as "The Blue Monster", then all bets are off. Slocum is supposed to be the CEO of the City and I'm still waiting for him to act like it. I wouldn't waste my time running for Council because I have a sense of urgency that would leave the others in a cloud of dust. As Slocum said himself in a radio interview, "it takes about 10 years to get anything done in Belfast". Well, AOC says we now have 11 years to live and counting, so times a wasting. You don't have to be on the Council to get involved. And to "Johnny come lately" Riley, we don't need your profound opines. As a matter of fact, you actually have to live in Belfast every day of the year to qualify to run for Council. Oh God, every day you say! Oh, the humanity.

Posted by: Kevin Riley | Sep 05, 2019 11:00


Do you really want a snowbird on the council?

Posted by: Seth Thayer | Sep 05, 2019 07:33

Mr. Schrader....an adult using schoolyard bully tactics of calling someone names or deliberately mashing up their name to make one look superior just doesn't hold much credibility in the world of adults and actually makes one look a bit of a crank to most people reading the comment.  I would suggest a more constructive approach.  Perhaps you can run for councilor and actually get involved rather than be just another armchair critic.

Posted by: Eric Schrader | Aug 31, 2019 08:34

Well, another stupid statement by our sharp as a tack City Manager, Slow Joe Slocum.

“Suddenly, when a local municipality decides to change a stop sign here or change something there, everybody in town thinks ‘oh this is the time to change the speed on my road, to create a cul-de-sac on my road, to make it a dead end, to put a sidewalk on it. “So, we have people coming out of the walls (should be woodwork) with suggestions, which is great, but I’m having a hard time keeping up with them … with all the other stuff we have to do.”

With all the other stuff we have to do? Are you kidding me. You have a full staff of department heads, like Terry and Bruce down at Waste Water that you have driving around the City collecting trash from the City and OurTownBelfast trash cans, like they have nothing better to do. A great use of their time when you have 2-3 able bodied Assistant Harbormasters who stand around and watch them put in new trash bags. How about they take care of their own trash. This "nuisance" stuff that you have to deal with may not seem important to you Slow Joe unless you get your butt creamed by the tourist traffic down by Rollie's going into the Washington Street parking lot. Maybe you need to put on your P.F. Flyers and start getting out more in the City, like taking in the McCrum refrigeration building, aka The Blue Monster with 8 broken down tractor trailers, exposed dumpster and a graffiti picturescape or the back lot of MacLeod's Furniture Store riddled with abandoned appliances, both areas in serious violation of City Ordinances but apparently, you have better things to do. You've been City Manager for how many years and these violations have been out there since 2011. I know a good ophthalmologist in town to check your eyesight cuz you apparently have an affliction or are wearing blinders.

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