NORRIDGEWOCK — Slater Smith was playing outside his house on Upper Main Street Monday afternoon, careful to stay behind the white line his mother had painted on the driveway.

“I don’t want them crossing it,” said Slater’s mother, Emily Smith, 32. “If a ball goes over the line or anything else, I’ll get it for them.”

Even with the addition of a speed hump on the street last year, Smith said she has concerns about her three children, ages 6, 8 and 10, riding their bikes and playing outside because of speeding cars.

Several neighbors on the street got together last year and asked the town to install the raised pavement to slow down passing cars on the residential street, where the speed limit is 25 mph. The hump was installed as part of a larger road project on Upper Main Street.

But some residents of the town are unhappy about the hump, which they say has caused damage to their vehicles and is a nuisance to drive over. One resident, Bruce Obert, who owns a nearby gravel pit and routinely drives over the hump, has started a petition asking for its removal.

The petition, which as of Monday had 99 valid signatures, is scheduled to be discussed at a Board of Selectmen’s meeting at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Town Office, and the board could take action on the request to remove the hump.

“There are a few people who might speed through Upper Main Street, and the rest of us have to pay for it,” said Obert, a member of the Planning Board and Sewer Commission, who said he has heard complaints about the hump causing damage to the suspensions of cars and trucks.

“The road isn’t designed for kids to play in, so parents need to make sure their kids aren’t out in the middle of the road,” Obert said. “There’s plenty of space alongside the road on people’s lawns for kids to walk if they need to walk to school or whatever.”

Upper Main Street is a roughly quarter-mile stretch of road that connects Main Street to Winding Hill Road. The hump has also increased traffic on nearby Wade Street, which can be used as an alternative route to Winding Hill Road, according to Obert and some other residents who said that street has seen an increase in traffic from drivers who are looking to avoid the hump.

“There’s more traffic now than there used to be,” said Lloyd Brown, 58, a resident of Wade Road, who said he was neither for nor against the speed hump, but has noticed more trucks coming down his road since the hump was put in.

The trucks tend to stir up dust on the road, which is partially gravel, but Brown said the problem could be easily fixed if the town would pave the road.

Winding Hill Road contains several gravel pits, including one that belongs to Obert, who runs a construction business in Norridgewock. “It’d be one thing to drive over it once a day, but when you’re driving over it 25 times a day it takes a toll on your vehicle,” Obert said of the hump.

Obert also said that the emergency medical service from Redington-Fairview General Hospital has complained about the hump delaying ambulances. Carol Steward, support services director for Redington Fairview, did not respond to a call seeking comment late Monday.

The hump was put in last summer as part of a reconstruction project on Upper Main Street. It was originally planned to be 4 inches high, but according to Obert, was built 2 inches too high.

Town Manager Richard LaBelle said the town is reviewing the height of the hump and that “it is possible the height will be adjusted,” although he wasn’t sure if that would suppress opposition.

“There were concerns from residents in the neighborhood about children’s safety and high speeds in the area,” LaBelle said, explaining why the hump was installed. “It is a straight stretch of road, and it’s not difficult to go more than 25 miles per hour. It’s wide and straight.”

LaBelle was not town manager at the time the hump was approved and said he didn’t know whether a public hearing was held asking for public input on the hump, but said it was a topic of discussion at numerous selectmen and road committee meetings before it was installed. Chairman of the Board of Selectmen Ron Frederick could not be reached for comment late Monday.

“A lot of folks are saying it’s beating up on their cars,” LaBelle said. “It’s undue wear and tear on automobiles. Some are saying it’s a problem for them medically, that when they hit that bump it’s affecting the back and the neck. There’s also concern about the speed of emergency response vehicles.”

LaBelle said he did not know what the cost would be to remove the hump, but said he has had an offer from one resident opposed to it to remove it at no cost to the town.

As of Monday there were about 160 signatures on the petition, but only 99 were valid, according to LaBelle.

On Upper Main Street many residents said they do not want to see the hump removed.

“All we want is for people to slow down,” said Bob Hopkins, whose lawn borders the speed hump. “I don’t particularly care for the speed hump, but there’s no other way to get people to slow down.”

Butch and Cheri White, who live across the street with their 10-year-old grandson, Parker, also said they support the hump.

“We love it,” said Cheri White, 68. “We’ve wanted it for years. It’s just been difficult to get people to slow down, so the neighborhood got together and asked for it.”

“It seems to have caused some hard feelings and I’m not sure why,” said Butch White, 65. “We’re just asking people to use common sense and be neighborly.”

If residents have other ideas for how to slow people down in the neighborhood, White and others said they are open to different ideas.

Smith, the mother of three children, said she has contacted the Somerset County Sheriff’s Office before about speeding but the sheriff’s office isn’t able to provide around-the-clock oversight of the road the way the hump does.

“People should be able to see the safety factor for the children,” she said. “The kids can’t ride their bikes through here and it’s horrible.”

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]

Twitter: @rachel_ohm


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