FARMINGTON — Selectmen voted 3-2 Tuesday to install of two warning signs on Bailey Hill Road and have the town attorney draft a liability waiver for them.

A motion was first made to erect School Bus Stop signs while the town attorney was consulted and Selectman Scott Landry, a state legislative representative, checked what could be done at the state level.

The motion was amended after Town Manager Richard Davis said erecting the signs and drafting the liability waiver would not prolong the issue.

Selectman Joshua Bell and Chairman Matthew Smith opposed to the amended motion. Selectmen Stephan Bunker, Michael Fogg and Scott Landry voted in favor of it.

Jean Mason met with the board to ask about two signs warning of an autistic child at play that were installed and then removed a couple of weeks ago.

“I have three boys, two have special needs,” she said. “One is 16 and nonverbal. He tends to wander, can be aggressive when agitated. It takes both my husband and me to put him on, take him off the bus.”

Mason said she asked public works about warning signs because of the possibility of him getting in or near the road.

She said a few months ago, a sign reading Autistic Child at Play was put up and a month later a second one was installed on the other side of Bailey Hill Road. A couple of weeks ago both signs were taken down, she said.

“The signs were not what I wanted,” Mason said. “It’s definitely not a child at play situation at my house. I preferred Caution Autistic Child.”

“There was no explanation, no phone calls,” she said. “Now there are no signs and I’ve been told several different things: those signs don’t really work, they’re not successful in warning people, that people don’t pay attention to them. I can absolutely tell you that no signs are definitely not going to warn people.”

Neighbors have asked why the signs were taken down and know their importance, Mason said.

“It’s literally life and death for my son,” she said. “It’s not a luxury I’m asking for.”

“Forty percent of autistic children are nonverbal,” Mason said. “Nearly half of them have the tendency to wander, have no concept of safety. One of every 65 children is autistic. This is no small matter, it’s not just my family.”

Mason said she was raised in Farmington, is part of the community and deserves support.

Davis said he had the signs taken down.

“The public works director put them up without my knowledge,” he said. “I would have told him not to put them up. We get requests for these signs all the time. They’re not standard, they’re nonregulatory signs, they send mixed messages.”

The signs have no enforcement behind them and provide a false sense of security that could potentially open the town up to some liability, Davis said.

“I do sympathize with your situation, am very sorry that you have to go through that,” he said. “I follow advice put out by the Federal Highway Safety Administration and the manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices. The Department of Transportation strongly advises against those types of signs as do other regulatory agencies I follow.”

Davis said putting up the signs would be against legal advice.

“I don’t want to seem harsh or cold,” he said. “I’m looking out for the town as a whole. It’s the larger picture I’m looking at.” If one sign is put up, the town could get requests for 100 more, he said. “They’re not effective, send mixed messages, could be more harmful than not.”

Mason said she was told by Maine DOT officials that the town doesn’t take on any responsibility unless there is something due to the conditions of the road itself.

“I’m not asking the town to take on any liability,” she said. “I’m happy to sign a waiver. I’m under no false presumption that the signs are absolutely going to keep my son safe. But if there is a way to keep my son safe it should be taken.”

Bell was concerned the signs would lose their effectiveness.

“What is 100% not effective is putting up no sign at all,” Mason said. “If one person slows down passing that sign, saves my son’s life, that’s worth it to me.”


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