At last Monday’s Board of Selectmen’s Meeting considerable time was spent reviewing the next steps on the proposed improvements to three critical intersections in town and the sidewalk along Beach Street from Masconomo Street to the beach. The actual cost to do the improvements at all four locations exceeds available funds, thus choices need to be made as to which projects to do at this time. At the start of the discussion staff recommended that the limited dollars, which must be spent by the end of June, be applied to the Washington/Sea/Summer Streets intersection and improving the sidewalk along Beach Street from Masconomo Street to the beach as these have been less controversial in scope (though certainly not free of debate). The discussions revealed a wide range of opinions as to priorities and needs.
There was consensus that the plans for improving the intersection at Washington/Sea/Summer Streets should proceed. The Selectmen voted to move this project forward. The design elements will require more of a right angle turn from Summer to Washington Street slowing traffic down and making a shorter cross walk. Similar changes will be made to the Sea/Summer Street intersection as well.
Residents in attendance expressed a preference for focusing on the Union/Beach intersection and the School/Central intersection rather than the sidewalk improvements along Beach Street. But exactly what the intersection improvements should be remains a question. The plans that were submitted for bidding purposes remove too many existing parking spaces in the eyes of some even though many of these lost spaces can be made up elsewhere. This tension between preserving parking and making intersections safer for pedestrians has proved challenging to resolve.
The Selectmen agreed to hold off making final decisions about the remaining projects to give concerned residents additional time to develop alternative designs for the intersection improvements that meet the needs of pedestrians and vehicular parking. The Board asked that a consensus alternative design be presented at their next meeting on October 21.
The 21st will also be the date we advance the candidacy of Todd Fitzgerald to be appointed as our next Police Chief. The Board will conduct an interview with our Interim Chief for the position as part of their regular meeting. The interview will afford the important opportunity for both the Board and Mr. Fitzgerald to articulate their goals for the department and to see that there is agreement on the path forward, ensuring the Manchester Police Department continues to best serve the needs of the community.
Assuming a successful session on the 21st, a final contract could be ratified by the Board at a special meeting tentatively set for the 29th. This process honors both the good work Todd has done for the Town as well as the integrity of a hiring process based on merit and professionalism.