HALLOWELL — The City Council voted in support of moving a crosswalk to the north side of Central Street and not to Dummers Lane amid concerns by residents and business owners of the public safety of pedestrians on the busy downtown thoroughfare.

It took four different votes to come to a decision. The final vote was tied 3-3, and Mayor Mark Walker cast the tiebreaking affirmative vote. Councilor Diano Circo did not attend the meeting due to illness.

“The reason I’m voting in the affirmative is practical,” he said. “I watch the traffic from my window, and it’s going to be much safer.”

The crosswalk in question — at Dummers Lane and Water Street, which is also U.S. Route 201 — was removed several years ago because it didn’t comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act, and it was not included in the transportation department’s plan to reconstruct Water Street, a project set to begin in about a month.

Mayor Mark Walker said the DOT would not allow a fifth crosswalk.

The first tied vote was to move the crosswalk to the north side of Central Street, and a motion to move the crosswalk to Dummers Lane was defeated 4 votes to 2. A motion to keep the design as-is was also defeated 4 votes to 2 before the last vote, when Walker broke the tie.

Councilor Michael Frett said it was upsetting that at the 11th hour, the council wasn’t being confronted just by people wanting to re-install the Dummers crossing, but the people are tying it to public safety.

“It sounds like extortion again, and it pisses me off,” Frett said. “(It seems like) if we don’t put it there, we’re going to negatively impact public safety.”

Frett said he questioned why at the beginning of the process, business owners were complaining about losing parking spots but now they don’t appear to have any problem losing a few spots if it means getting the Dummers crosswalk added to the plan.

“Nobody’s not concerned about public safety,” Councilor George LaPointe said. “The one data point we have about a fatality on Water Street happened in a crosswalk.”

The DOT gave the city three options for the council to consider:

• Move the Central Street crosswalk to the north side of the intersection of Central and Water streets, which would result in no loss of parking spaces

• Remove the crosswalk at Central and Water streets and put one on the south side of Dummers Lane across Water Street, which would result in the loss of three to four parking spots.

• Do nothing and leave the plan without any change to any proposed crossings.

At last month’s council meeting, the council voted to ask project manager Ernie Martin to look into adding the fifth crosswalk to the plan after hearing feedback from the community.

Liberal Cup owner Geoff Houghton submitted to the council last month with a petition with 204 signatures in support of returning that crosswalk at Dummers Lane to the DOT plan. He was unable to attend Monday’s meeting, but in a letter to the council, he said since people will continue to cross at that spot whether there are stripes are not, the city owes it to drivers to provide a clear indication that such passages will occur.

“It will be considerably safer than having people jump out between tightly parked cars, which currently happens and will continue to happen,” Houghton said.

His wife Jamie spoke to the council Monday night and apologized for raising these concerns right before construction begins on Water Street, but she said the crosswalk at Dummers Lane makes sense. She said it’s not because they want more business at their restaurant.

“I see scores of people every day crossing illegally, and I see people walk to where the old crosswalk was and cross there,” she said. “It’s not about our business.”

Last month, DOT project manager Ernie Martin told the council consideration was given to bringing back the crosswalk, but ultimately, losing three or four parking spaces was not worth it to city officials and the transportation department. Martin said DOT policy doesn’t allow for mid-street crosswalks, so a change order would have to be made by someone higher in the department.

The Hallowell Board of Trade voted unanimously to support removal of the crossing at Central and Water streets in favor of adding the crosswalk at Dummers Lane. Houghton said since Water Street merchants will be most affected, he thought their voices should be strongly considered.

In a contributed column last week in the Kennebec Journal, Walker said the plan is something all of Hallowell can be proud of.

He talked about pedestrian interests and the interests of bicyclists, business owners, business customers, residents and historical groups. And because Water Street is a U.S. highway, using federal funds adds certain restrictions and considerations.

“I’m happy to report that after working with DOT, its design and engineering consultants, and our Highway Committee and City Council, the final design is one we can be proud of,” Walker said.

Councilor Lisa Harvey-McPherson, the chairwoman of the Highway Committee, said the committee intentionally developed an inclusive process when talk about reconstructing Water Street about six years ago.

“Increased parking was a priority for all involved, and it was a consensus decision,” she said. “Not everyone got everything they wanted.”

The council meets again at 6 p.m. March 12 for its regular monthly meeting. An agenda should be made public at the end of the week.

Jason Pafundi — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @jasonpafundiKJ

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