Wilton’s Board of Selectmen (BOS) met on Mon., Nov. 21, and took significant action on a troubling and growing problem: traffic and speeding cars on Wilton roads.
Wilton Police Chief John Lynch and Police Commission Chair Chris Giovino attended the meeting to discuss Wilton’s traffic enforcement needs.
“Obviously An Issue”
Vanderslice began the discussion by pointing to a high number of complaints she has heard from residents about traffic and speeding.
“Both [Chief Lynch] and I have received an increasing number of emails, complaints, [and] tags on Facebook about the speed of drivers in Wilton,” Vanderslice said. “It’s obviously an issue.”
Lynch spoke about a number of factors that have limited more effective enforcement in recent years, including numerous requests received for time-consuming traffic studies; lack of officers’ time to dedicate to traffic enforcement despite a desire to place more priority on it; and generally more speeding complaints to respond to.
They all point to a need for a dedicated traffic officer.
“Our officers do the best they can during routine patrols, but it’s probably been 10-15 years since we had a dedicated traffic officer,” Lynch said. “We used to have 1.5 or 2 officers dedicated to traffic.”
A dedicated officer would run radar on the roads, look for violations, and do the traffic studies that might lead to changes in speed limits or signage, among other important duties, like child seat installations.
Lynch appealed to the selectmen to add an officer to the current force of 44 officers.
“I would propose having one officer dedicated to addressing all of these traffic issues,” Lynch said. “We used to have 45 officers. I would propose, if possible, that we go back up to 45 officers with the understanding that one officer would be dedicated to address and facilitate the traffic requests.”
Lynne Vanderslice responded quite favorably to the proposal.
“I definitely support this,” she said, adding that some budgeted savings from WPD positions that went unfilled during the year could be applied to the cost of a new position.
The board voted unanimously to add the position.
Lynch also noted that four portable speed signs, known to have a meaningful impact on drivers, will be employed in the near term.
The move follows another recent step taken by the BOS to address traffic concerns on Nov. 9, when the board authorized the WPD to submit a grant application that would provide state funding for a new speeding enforcement effort.
In addition to their work to address traffic concerns, the BOS also discussed the rarely-mentioned topic of blight on Wilton properties.
The Town has a blight ordinance, which allows the Town to issue fines for violations. Normally, Vanderslice says, the threat of fines is sufficient to avoid enforcement issues.
In a memo to the selectmen in advance of the Nov. 21 meeting, Vanderslice briefed the board on foreclosure actions that have occurred in recent years:
“In 2019, the Board of Selectmen authorized three blight foreclosure actions [61 Chestnut Hill Rd., 82 Indian Hill Rd., and 118 Cherry Ln.]. In one of the matters, the foreclosure court awarded the Town more than $100,000 in blight fines, interest, legal fee reimbursements, and bills of cost. The other two blight foreclosures remain open.”
Vanderslice went on to recommend the creation of a new fund for the fines and interest to be used for the public good, such as supporting the Town’s work on new affordable housing or funding a town amenity. The board voted unanimously to create the fund.
She then recommended the recent court award be used to support the Town’s affordable housing initiatives. The board voted unanimously to designate the funds for that purpose. (The BOS can designate other purposes if additional foreclosure court awards are received.)
Board members reflected on the fact that foreclosure action is only taken as a last resort after many efforts to offer assistance to a property owner have been unsuccessful in resolving a blight problem.
More BOS Business:
- The BOS heard a presentation from Wilton Police Department Captain Rob Cipolla and Social Services Director Sarah Heath about the Town’s capabilities and response to mental health needs. GOOD Morning Wilton will be reporting on that topic in a separate story.
- Vanderslice asked the BOS to consider authorizing January property tax credits using any remaining FY2023 budgeted elderly and disabled tax relief funds. In a memo to the board, Vanderslice wrote, “As funds remain, I recommend we authorize funding of additional tax credits up to the remaining budget to be applied to the January 1 tax bill on a pro-rated basis to previously qualified recipients, subject to no recipient receiving an award greater than their tax liability.” The board voted unanimously to do so.
- Vanderslice also informed the board of additional National Opioid Settlement Funds received by the Town, bringing the total received to over $50,000 that will be used for educational efforts about opioids.
- For various reasons, some topics that were on the Nov. 21 agenda were tabled until a future meeting:
- Recognition of actions by Town departments and other organizations resulting in Wilton’s SustainableCT Silver Award
- Review of proposed FY2024 BOS budget process dates and calendar 2023 BOS regular meeting dates
- POCD implementation status
The next BOS meeting will be Dec. 5.