April 05, 2020

Pittsfield awaits traffic lights

PITTSFIELD – Town councilors shook their heads in disgust Tuesday night when they learned that a new traffic light on Main Street may not be up and operational until April 2007.

The traffic light system, which previously consisted of four on-the-ground units, has not been operational all year – ever since a turning truck demolished one of the lights and no parts could be found to fix the aging system. Stop signs have been used on two of the four corners since then.

The Maine Department of Transportation has funded the project and awarded the contract, but a major part must be fabricated for the new system, Town Manager Kathryn Ruth said, and that’s the holdup.

“So here we go, a winter without lights,” Ruth said.

The council was distressed further by a serious accident at the same intersection that injured well-known resident Glenn Wheaton, 77. Wheaton was attempting to cross the intersection two weeks ago when he was struck by a turning vehicle. After several surgeries, Wheaton remains in stable condition at Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor.

“Everyone in town misses him,” Councilor Wayne Fotter said Tuesday. Wheaton has been called a hero because he saved the town’s theater decades ago when, as the owner, he refused to sell it to a company that planned to show X-rated movies. The town now owns the theater, the only community-owned theater in the state.

Ruth said she has pressured DOT to look “in their collection” of old traffic lights to see whether something can be temporarily installed, and, if not, possibly better signs can be put up.

She said she is setting up a meeting with DOT personnel to discuss the issue. “I’m sure the reorganization of the MDOT has been as hard on them as on us,” she said.

Ruth said the new signals will have pedestrian crossing signals. Meanwhile, plastic pedestrian cones that slow traffic will be used. Ruth said both cones were stolen and one was returned, although it appears to have been run over many times and is in poor condition. She said she will purchase additional cones if there is any money left in the public works budget at the end of the year.

In other business, the council awarded the contract for financing a $300,000 water and sewer project to TD BankNorth at 4.9 percent. It was the only bank that bid on the bonds.

The council also approved a liquor and special amusement permit for Town Tavern at the location of the former Picnic Basket. Owner John Chappelle said he will “paint it first,” a gray-and-green color scheme, and then open serving “pizza and beer.” He also plans to have pool tables, jukeboxes, dart games and, in the summer, outdoor horseshoe pits.

Chappelle was given high recommendations by neighbor Bayford Lancaster, who said Chappelle knocked on doors throughout the neighborhood and introduced himself and his project to those living nearby.

“I think this will be a nice place for people to go,” Lancaster said.

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