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Seabrook purchasing electronic radar signs

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SEABROOK — Freestanding, electronic radar signs are one of the most effective ways to get speeding drivers to slow down on local roads, and Seabrook is set to get two of them soon.

On Monday, selectmen approved the request by police Chief Lee Bitomske to purchase two electronic radar signs that can indicate the speed limit for the road that it is near, then flash the speed of approaching traffic in order to warn drivers if they’re driving too fast. The combined price of the two units can’t exceed $20,000, which may be taken from the  D’Alessandro fund, a dedicated account established by the late Elmo Augusto D’Alessandro to only be used for law enforcement expenditures.

Another funding source for the signs could be money gifted to the town by developers in lieu of exaction fees. Exaction fees are assessed by the Planning Board during site plan review and paid by those who construct large developments in town. The money is usually restricted for specific purposes.

However, the Planning Board offers developers a 10 percent discount on the fee if they make the payment a “gift,” according to Planning Board vice-chairman Jason Janvrin. At the recent meeting, Janvrin and Selectman Aboul Khan suggested Town Manager Bill Manzi check with the Planning Board’s attorney to see if some of the more than $200,000 in the exaction gift fund could be used to pay for the radar signs.

According to Bitomske, the department gets numerous calls about cars speeding through neighborhoods. When possible, he said, officers are dispatched to sit with hand-held radar to monitor traffic. But Seabrook is a busy town from a law enforcement standpoint, and there are a lot of roads to patrol, Bitomske said. It’s impossible to keep officers sitting on local streets monitoring traffic with any frequency when they have other services to perform, he added.

With the freestanding electronic speed-detecting radar signs, Bitomske said, once towed to a spot, they can be left to do their jobs of slowing traffic — especially since they’re solar powered.

One location mentioned at the meeting as a spot where such signs might prove useful is on Route 286 by Brown’s Lobster Pound and Markey’s Lobster Pool restaurants. It was there were a pedestrian was killed in August, 2012, crossing the road after eating at Markey’s.  Although the driver had not been speeding at the time, the overflow of pedestrians at the two eateries along the busy road can be hazardous.

But getting people to slow down along that state road has been a problem. The speed limit on the upper portion of the Route 286 is 55 miles per hour, then it drops suddenly to 35 miles per hour. Especially in the summer season when thousands use the road daily to get from the Interstate to the beach, failure of people to slow sufficiently has led to some serious accidents.

Bitomske has sent letters to the state Department of Transportation seeking help on the roadway, he told selectmen, but has not received a reply. Placing a radar sign in this area, he said, could make a difference.


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