West Tisbury moves to better identify properties for emergency responders
Unmarked streets and roads in West Tisbury cause problems for emergency responders, as well as for people trying to find the house where the dinner party is. Town public safety personnel met with the selectmen last week to come up with a solution to the problem.
"There are a lot of new roads in town and we [emergency personnel] are having a difficult time finding places," said Martina Mastromonaco, coordinator of the Tri-Town Ambulance. She asked the selectmen if the town has a bylaw to require street signs.
Selectman chairman John Early said state law requires streets to be named, but not to be marked. Executive secretary Jennifer Rand added that there is no town bylaw that requires a sign at the end of a road.
Selectman Jeffrey "Skipper" Manter described problems fire personnel had recently trying to find a home on Runaway Road, which is not marked. He added that it is hard to find a place on roads such as Buttonwood Farm Road, where the houses also aren't marked.
"We should map out the streets that need numbering as soon as possible," he said.
After the meeting, Ms. Mastromonaco explained why the Enhanced 911 system is not adequate for the emergency personnel and needs corrections. When a call for help comes in to the Tri-town center, the computer displays only an address. The communications center has some road directions, but sometimes the ambulance driver, who is usually alone, must rely on directions given by the caller, which are not always easy to follow, especially at night, she said. She often hopes that the police are ahead of her so she can follow their lights.
When a road is not marked at all, Ms. Mastromonaco said, she often can't tell the difference between a driveway and a road. If she starts down the wrong road, it's difficult to turn the big ambulance around on narrow roads.
"It's just frustrating," she said. Another problem is that addresses are not always consistent with mailboxes. However, Ms. Mastromonaco said, "This is not new. We've come a long way in 10 years." Years ago, the responders had only old map books assembled in no logical order. A few years ago she copied the map book, blew it up and put it on the wall of the Tri-town communications center to help the emergency responders.
The West Tisbury Fire Association also makes map and lot plates for the long roads. The plates now include a house number, Ms. Mastromonaco said. She also encourages homeowners to buy their own signs. "Help us help you," is her motto.
The public safety officials concurred that consistency is needed for signs, such as the height at which they are placed, and some road signs on rocks are difficult to see.
Police chief Beth Toomey said she also would like to address new streets that haven't been marked. "Let's get started," she said.
Noting resistance to signs by people on private roads, Ms. Mastromonaco suggested her agency could help residents order signs. Sloan Hart, assistant coordinator for Tri-Town Ambulance, who said she has been working with Chilmark and Aquinnah on their street signs, also offered her help.
Mr. Early suggested the superintendent of streets do an inventory of street signs that are missing. In the end, the selectmen assigned the task of setting up street sign standards to police chief Toomey, fire chief Manuel Estrella III, and Ms. Mastromonaco.
The selectmen asked them to appoint a subcommittee to work on the issue and report back to them. That subcommittee now includes Mr. Manter, Mr. Estrella, Ms. Hart, and Ms. Mastromonaco. Ms. Mastromonaco said the group will begin by identifying the roads that don't have signs.
In other business, the selectmen resolved a longstanding bill from the county engineer for $38,487 dating back to last March. They voted 2-1 to pay the bill from the town paths beside the roadway committee budget since most of the expenses went toward path work.
Mr. Manter voted against the proposal, as he has opposed paying the bill all along, claiming it was an extra charge on top of the town's annual assessment for engineering services.
Ms. Rand said she believed from a letter from the county manager that the town would not receive any engineering services if it did not pay the bill.