Tisbury selectmen discussed the removal of the stop sign at the intersection of Greenwood Avenue and Main Street heading toward West Chop at their meeting Tuesday. The discussion was prompted by a request from Selectman Larry Gomez, who lives on Greenwood Avenue.
The stop sign in question was one of five put up in October 2012 with little advance notice and no presentation of traffic data. Selectmen approved the stop sign installations on the recommendation of former Department of Public Works Director Fred LaPiana.
In public comments, Mr. LaPiana told selectmen the new stop signs were needed to slow traffic and create a safe path for pedestrians.
At that time Tristan Israel, board of selectmen chairman, said no traffic data was presented or used to arrive at the decision to approve the new signs, rather community concern and a lack of public opposition expressed at the public hearing was the overriding factor in the decision.
On Tuesday, Mr. Gomez offered his reasoning for the removal of the sign in front of the Vineyard Haven Public Library.
“The stop sign that was put in front of the library probably works for about 25 percent of the people that go through there,” he said. “Everybody else goes through it.”
He said he didn’t think the stop sign was useful. “Many of the people I’ve spoken to would like to see the sign go,” he said. “It’s not serving its purpose.”
Selectman Melinda Loberg pointed out that there are continual efforts to slow drivers down, and the removal of a stop sign might be counterintuitive.
Tisbury Police Chief Daniel Hanavan agreed, and said that if the stop sign is removed, there may be drivers who proceed to speed out of town.
The Massachusetts Department of Transportation “Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices and the standard municipal traffic code,” section 10A-4, states, “The purpose of the Stop Sign is to designate right-of-way to vehicles making conflicting movements. It is not intended, nor shall it be used for the control of speed, traffic calming, or to forestall pedestrian, rear-end, or turning movement accidents.”
According to a DOT spokesman, on town ways the town assumes all mandated liabilities if traffic control devices are not erected in accordance with the department’s most current Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices.
Tuesday, Town Administrator Jay Grande suggested asking for input from the Vineyard Haven Public Library trustees. Mr. Israel agreed.
“Let’s write the library and tell them we’ve had a discussion about whether that stop sign is useful or not, and we’d appreciate feedback from the library trustees,” he said. “And let’s see what the feedback is, and whether we need to make a decision at a public hearing.”
Right to know
In other business, selectmen also discussed a bill that proposes changes to the public records law, which has support from many advocacy groups and lawmakers on Beacon Hill. It would fine agencies that violate the law, cover the costs of attorney fees for requestors who successfully sue for public record access, reduce the cost of copies, and make electronic documents more easily obtainable, among other changes. These changes would attempt to keep agencies from charging outlandish fees and not adhering to the 10-day compliance policy.
The House now plans to put off voting on the bill until later in the year after facing opposition from cities, towns and organizations like the Massachusetts Municipal Association (MMA), a nonprofit, nonpartisan association of Massachusetts cities and towns. At the all-Island selectmen’s meeting on Friday, MMA Legislative Director John Robertson said the MMA was not opposed to the bill entirely, but to some of the proposed changes, especially changes to the timeline and fee structure of the law.
At Tuesday’s meeting, Mr. Israel proposed writing a letter of support in favor of the MMA’s position.
“I would like us to write a letter of support saying, Yes we support making it easier for the public to access public records, but please keep in mind that we can’t afford many unfunded mandates and there should be some reasonable time constraints for the towns and cities to be able to reasonably accommodate some of these requests,” he said.
He said some aspects of the bill were unreasonable for a small community.
“I’m not saying that they shouldn’t make the law easier for the public to access records, but some of these things go beyond making it easy and make it expensive and time-consuming for the town, and then those costs get passed on to the public,” Mr. Israel said.
Ms. Loberg, who was also in attendance at the all-Island selectmen’s meeting, said she believed they needed to focus on public record access issues within the town.
“I will say that we are kind of not in a very good position to be criticizing this legislation, because we have a pretty poor track record ourselves of responding to these things in a timely way,” she said. “The reason is we’re not on the cutting edge of technology in this town; as a matter of fact I don’t even think we can see the cutting edge from here.”
She said it was a high priority for the board and the town administrator to be in a better position to make public records available.
“I think that this legislation is going to push us to do a better job and to be more responsive,” Ms. Loberg said. “I think we need to focus on our job of doing better. I hope the public will be patient as we try to do this. It’s not something we are resisting.”
Mr. Grande said the more technologically advanced the town becomes, the easier it will be to comply with requests.
“As long as people are organizing their emails better, it is quite easy to respond to requests,” he said. “What I would note is that when requests go further back in time, we have a more difficult time archiving that information, because it’s not in a digital format necessarily, and second, it could be in this building or that building; we don’t have a sole campus or building, and our storage is in several locations.”
Ms. Loberg said they need to face the legislation with the understanding that it will eventually pass.
“Eventually this legislation will pass, and there will be consequences,” she said. “That would be more costly to the town than us shaping up and doing it right the first time.”
Mr. Israel agreed, but said he wanted to make sure the changes were reasonable. There was no decision on whether or not a letter would be sent.
In other business, Vasha Brunelle proposed starting a discussion about preserving shade trees on Beach Road, particularly honey locust trees. Mr. Israel agreed, and said bylaws and expectations of the tree warden needed to be looked at within the next month so that there can be a more “orderly process.”
Selectmen approved a common victualler’s license for Beach Road at 79 Beach Road, the sister restaurant of State Road Restaurant. La Soffitta, the new Italian restaurant above Waterside Market, was also approved for a license.