2018-07-06 / In the Know

Chiefs’ message to Scarborough community

By B. Michael Thurlow and Robert Moulton Special to the Leader

Since the referendum vote in November, there has been a tremendous amount of work involved in the planning of what we believe will be a very safe and efficient facility for Scarborough Public Safety personnel to work in for many years to come.

In order to best serve our citizens, we enabled an open and transparent process overseen by an ad hoc building committee of citizens to review and provide guidance to our planning.

Prior to bringing this matter to referendum, we worked with a robust group of individuals from the community, who put many hours of their own time toward this project. Once the ad hoc committee had established a right-sized facility for our needs, it was then time to look for the best location.

The committee used a comparative site study analysis worksheet to score 11 different sites in 16 separate categories. We scrutinized each site for attributes such as buildability, vehicular access, and neighborhood impacts.

In the final analysis, the municipal campus site was by far the highest rated location. This matrix is available on the town’s website.

Once the site was selected, the initial design work was initiated. One critical element we needed to remedy was prompt and safe emergency vehicle response access to Route 1.

At our current station, traffic is often backed up across the emergency responder vehicle exits which creates a potentially dangerous condition while the town’s emergency vehicles enter Route 1 and vehicles in the way try to maneuver an opening while standing in congested traffic at the lights.

It very quickly became apparent that the safest and most efficient means of egress for emergency equipment would be through a new road to be built and connected to Sawyer Road. From there equipment would be able to control the Sawyer Road traffic signals and access Route 1.

This allows for emergency vehicles to enter Route 1 at a considerable distance away from the Oak Hill traffic lights, greatly reducing the traffic safety and, more importantly, increasing response times for the original nature of the emergency.

During the work of the ad hoc committee and building up to the referendum vote in November, we held neighborhood meetings, made presentations to the town council, wrote articles in the local papers, and posted the minutes of our meetings as well as conceptual drawings to the town’s website. In all of those communications, egress was clearly shown coming out to Sawyer Road.

More recently we have heard from some residents that they are not in agreement with the Sawyer Road egress. The concerns raised focus mostly around the idea of having emergency vehicles traveling in an around a park and residential neighborhood.

We want to assure you that we have heard those concerns and have worked very hard to make sure that there is minimal impact to the park.

The roadway has been moved as close as possible to the edge of the property closest to the car wash. To further segregate the emergency responders from park users, we have included earthen berms, landscaping, as well as some tall aesthetic guard railing to make sure that children and pets are separated from any emergency traffic.

In the coming weeks, flags and/or stakes to illustrate the location of the edge of the proposed road nearest the park will be installed to help members of the community visualize the limited amount of incursion into the park to facilitate this important egress for emergency vehicles only.

While having a public safety facility in your neighborhood may be new (and alarming) to you, operating in a neighborhood is not new to us. Our officers and firefighters already respond through neighborhoods, both when they leave our current facility and when they travel through or arrive in neighborhoods where there is an emergency. These individuals are trained emergency vehicle operators. Many are also parents and pet owners themselves and clearly recognize the importance of proceeding through residential areas with the utmost caution.

We have also been asked questions with respect to the use of sirens. While we cannot speak to every single circumstance, we can give you assurance that emergency vehicles will not be automatically turning on their sirens as soon as they leave the building. In most cases, we believe that sirens will most likely not be necessary until the units are clearing Sawyer Road on to Route 1.

We fully realize that this is a change for people and as with any change there will be some apprehension. We recognize that and will pledge to work very hard to be good neighbors. Our intent is to have as little impact on the park and the surrounding neighborhood as possible. After our discussions from the public meetings and applying that feedback to our designs, we believe our revised plan provides for both emergency vehicles and park users to coexist safely on the eastern edge of the park

We will be happy to meet with any individuals or groups to further discuss these matters at any time. We hope that you have a safe and happy summer.

Michael Thurlow is fire chief for Scarborough. Robert Moulton is police chief for Scarborough.

Return to top