Board of Selectmen report: Drift Road guardrails, Covid report, East Beach 'stuff'

By Bruce Burdett
Posted 1/13/21

WESTPORT — Debate over a controversial new guardrail on Drift Road will continue at the next Board of Selectmen meeting in an effort to find a solution that satisfies safety rules, the …

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Board of Selectmen report: Drift Road guardrails, Covid report, East Beach 'stuff'


WESTPORT — Debate over a controversial new guardrail on Drift Road will continue at the next Board of Selectmen meeting in an effort to find a solution that satisfies safety rules, the neighbors and the budget.

The issue arose two weeks earlier after 15-20 neighbors met with town Highway Department leadership to express their dissatisfaction with the new guardrail. They called it unsightly and inappropriate for the “country road” (something more suitable to the Mass Pike), and unsafe since it further narrows a roadway frequented by walkers and bicyclists. 

Several took the matter to the Board of Selectmen, urging the town to change how approvals of roadwork projects funded by state Chapter 90 funds are handled.

Highway Surveyor Chris Gonsalves said the guardrail is necessary because the road crosses a waterway (Kirby Brook) and that, since Chapter 90 money is being used to pay for it, the town has to abide by state guardrail standards.

At Monday’s meeting, Town Administrator Tim King provided an update (no action could be taken because the matter was not on the agenda).

The administrator said he spoke to a representative of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation.

He told me that Mass DOT does not dictate whether towns should or should not put in guardrails, but if Chapter 90 funds are used, the guardrail must meet state standards.

Generally, guardrails are installed with steel rails between the posts, Mr. King was told. But the state also allows alternatives including one with steel posts and wooden rails, and another with wooden posts and steel rails.

He said “that the cost for a wooden guardrail is about three times the expense of a steel guardrail,” Mr. King said.

Mass DOT send an engineer out to inspect the work, the administrator was told, and he “didn’t observe any significant problems with the installation;” A couple of the posts had to be straightened “and a few other minor things.”

Mr. King said he also received a report from the Police Department — they didn’t see a problem with the guardrail in terms of safety.

Mr. King added that “certainly not having a guardrail in that area does aggravate the safety issues.”

Board Chairman Richard Brewer said that the discussion will continue at the meeting of January 19 so that neighbors can participate.

In the meantime, Mr. Gonsalves will be asked to prepare cost estimates for various alternatives.

At the previous meeting, Selectman Brian Valcourt said that the town discontinued use of wooden guardrails after a horrific fatal crash on Adamsville Road several decades ago.


Covid update

Matt Armendo, Westport’s Public Health Director, told the board that, as of Tuesday, Jan. 5, the town had seen 834 positive confirmed cases of Covid-19, along with 700 recoveries. Two people from town are in the hospital with the virus and, sadly, he added, there has been another fatality, bringing the town’s total to seven.

“Household transmission,” he said, continues to be the primary source of spread.

Mr. Armendo cautioned residents to beware of several scams involving the arrival of vaccines.

You are being scammed, he said, if you are asked to pay out of pocket for the vaccine or if you are asked to pay to get on a list for early access. He said the vaccine is given free under terms of the Cares Act and that the scheduling phases are set by the state.

Mr. Armendo said that there continues to be a serious need for blood donations. The Red Cross is seeking people who are full recovered from Covid-19 who are willing to donate plasma to help current patients. Visit the Red Cross website for details.

East Beach ‘stuff’

Board member Shana Shufelt reported that she had talked with representatives of the East Beach Trailer Association and that they want selectmen to get rid of requirements that they remove sheds, picnic tables and other “stuff” during the winter.

The association believes the town has no right to come onto the lot owners’ property to remove items left behind after trailers are removed for the season.

Town Administrator Tim King said the town isn’t interested in “coming down with the heavy hand of government” to remove items — what it wants is for residents to remove it themselves, something that does not always happen.

“That’s an extremely sensitive area and we want them to respect that,” he added. The town has required removal of non-permanent items and structures to prevent them from being washed into The Let marsh by winter storms.

The board took no action.

Tax promotion

The board voted unanimously to promote Elizabeth Edwards to the position of assistant tax collector — she had been a clerk in the department.

The board voted to advertise the clerk job she is leaving to fill the vacancy as quickly as possible.


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