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Directional signs approved for Rumford
RUMFORD -- In an ongoing effort to bring traffic onto the Island, four new directional signs will soon be erected.
On Thursday, the Board of Selectmen agreed unanimously to permit Envision Rumford, a group of local economic development volunteers, to buy new directional signs using $2,980 from the town's Economic Development Fund. The new signs will be made by Mexico businessman Matt Pingree, the owner of Creative Signs and Apparel, formerly known as Low-Key Custom Design.
The burgundy and gold signs will be placed near the Rumford Information Center, Rt. 108 into town, with a two-sided sign at the rotary on Route 2.
The signs will have a graphic of the municipal building clock tower above the words "The Island, Downtown Rumford."
Below that will be graphic symbols representing restaurants, lodging, 24-hour ATMs and gift stores, followed by an arrow directing drivers toward the downtown.
In selling the board on the new designs, Jennifer Kreckel of Envision Rumford said the downtown island is being bypassed by traffic on Routes 2 and 108. She said these signs will be in colors that won't blend with the vegetation. These will be simple for the eye to see, easier to see at night, with an arrow to direct traffic.
Town Manager Carlo Puiia said the current signs, designed for seven years, are now 10 years old and are beginning to break down.
Selectman Jeff Sterling said the problem he sees is not with the colors of the sign but rather placement of the signs so that they don't direct traffic onto the island going the wrong way up or down one-way streets. Canal and River streets carry traffic off Route 108 up to Hartford and Portland streets, from which traffic can head back down to Route 108 using Congress Street.
"When you're coming off Route 108 from both directions, we're going to be anticipating that motorists, not us, likely, are going to know enough to turn into Canal Street or River Street."
Kreckel responded, "And that is the big problem and I don't have any solutions to that."
Sterling said that with the new signs that Envision Rumford wants to install, they'll have to identify Canal and River streets somehow as the roads onto which to turn off Route 108 to travel across the island to reach the upper end of Congress Street, which is a one-way
street that exits onto Route 108. "Because of that turn on River Street, if you don't know it's there, you're going to miss it."
He added that most people who aren't local will likely think they can turn off Route 108 onto Congress Street. "All hope is lost at that point."
Despite that, Sterling said he liked the idea of the new signs. "This is trying to give businesses on the island a chance that they don't normally get, because Route 2 does pass them completely by. And with a one-way, if you don't know, you're just going to keep going straight. So I think this gives businesses on the island a fighting chance."
Selectman Jolene Lovejoy then asked business owners on Congress Street to stand from where they sat in the audience, which they did. She then asked them how they felt about changing one-way Congress Street to a two-way street, which it was many years ago.
Candice Casey said it should remain as it is, otherwise parking would be a serious problem. Another business owner disagreed, suggesting creating a parking lane in the middle of the street or on one side only.
"We have less people and more cars than we had 25 years ago," said Lovejoy, who suggested revisiting the two-way design.
Board Chairman Greg Buccina said the town could always look into creating a parking garage or building a parking area over the canals.
Prior to this, the board heard nearly two hours of discussion and presentations about economic development, a presentation by Jennifer Olsen of Main Street Skowhegan on how they revitalized the downtown area, and from John Holden of Eaton Peabody Consulting Group LLC of Augusta. Holden pitched his economic development services.