WHITEFIELD — Select Board Chairman Tony Marple said he and a small group of townspeople are meeting Wednesday afternoon with members of the Amish community to continue to discuss ways they could make town roads safer for horse-drawn buggies and other vehicles after two recent accidents involving horse-drawn buggies.

Department of Transportation traffic engineer David Allen also is expected to attend the meeting, which Marple said will not be open to the public. Marple has contacted the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office about attending, but he has not received a response.

Marple said Wednesday’s meeting will address what the town can do to make roads safer, especially as more Amish people move into the area.

“Clearly, we’re going to need more (signs),” Marple said. “We’ll also need a map of where they’re living and their travel routes.”

Selectman Bill McKeen said he’s heard that some Amish children are walking on the wrong side of the road, and Maple said it’s something that isn’t unique to just the Amish, and it’s something the town will have to address.

The biggest means of ensuring the safety of Amish people operating or riding on a horse-and-buggy, Selectman Frank Ober said, will be fostering awareness and staying under the speed limit on town roads.

“The big issue with these folks is them just being out of sight when you come around a curve or the crest of a hill,” Ober said. “Lights (on the buggy) or signs won’t change that.”

A horse-drawn buggy was rear-ended Oct. 4, and there was also a minor accident on Sept. 28. Nobody was injured, but there was damage to the vehicles, including thousands of dollars in damage to the horse-drawn carriage. The incidents prompted the Select Board to begin talking about ways to make the town safer for its Amish residents.

According to the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office, George Bronn, of Whitefield, was driving north on East River Road when he tried to avoid striking the rear of a horse-drawn carriage. He skidded into the southbound lane and then struck the back of the carriage. The carriage, being driven by Henry Miller, was pushed into a ditch on the northbound side.

After the accident, the Select Board met last week with the sheriff’s office and Maine Department of Transportation to think of ways to increase vehicle safety in Whitefield.

Transportation department traffic engineer David Allen said the department would add mileage information — such as “Horse and Buggy next three miles” — under the existing warning signs. They also might add additional signs at specific points around Whitefield, depending on where the Amish typically travel, he said.

Chief Deputy Rand Maker said there is an electric information sign on East River Road, and the sheriff’s office plans to move it around Whitefield during the next few months in hopes of alerting as many motorists as possible to the presence of horse-drawn carriages.

The Millers and at least two other Amish families moved into Whitefield and Jefferson in the spring after coming to Maine from New York state and Kentucky. Whitefield officials added horse-and-buggy signs around town following their arrival.

Marple said there is still a lot to be done to educate residents and motorists. He said there will be an article in the next Whitefield newsletter, and he said there are some places around Whitefield where the road can be cleared, allowing the Amish vehicles more room to operate.

The board also has discussed adding larger signs on specific roads entering the town that would read “Welcome to Whitefield. Beware of horse-and-buggy.” He said the cost for that type of sign would have to be included in the annual budget, but it is something they’ll look at next year.

Widening the roads is not something that has been discussed because it would be expensive, but Allen said he can’t say if that is something the DOT would consider in the future. Cooper Road doesn’t have a shoulder and Route 218, where the first accident occurred, doesn’t have much of one.

As more Amish people move into Whitefield and other central Maine communities, Marple said discussions will continue on how best to make the busy thoroughfares, through streets and back roads safe for everyone.

Jason Pafundi — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @jasonpafundiKJ

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