Wilton

Lack of communication in traffic dummy restoration work, some say

WILTON — The Wilton Main Street Association is at odds with the Department of Public Works over the repair and restoration of a historic traffic signal that sits at the head of Main Street.

Association members have expressed their dissatisfaction with how the restoration of the 1920s traffic signal — which has been part of the Main Street landscape since the center of Wilton was part of the Route 101 corridor — is being handled. They say they have not been kept apprised of the project moving forward, despite their involvement in researching the restoration process at the Select Board’s behest.

The signal, known as a “dummy,” slang for a “dumb policeman,” as in a silent policeman, has been a fixture on Main Street since the 1920s, and was restored as recently as 2007, but the rust has continued to deteriorate the metal on the body of the signal. The preferred method to prevent that rust in the future was the subject of the association’s recent research.

At a Select Board meeting on Monday, Wilton Main Street Association Design Committee member Patsy Belt told the board that there had been a miscommunication between the board, Main Street members and Public Works Director Steve Elliott.

As far back as December, the Main Street Association had been discussing the restoration of the traffic dummy on Main Street, which had been damaged by rust. At that time, Belt said, the Main Street Association was told that there was not a lot of money available in the public works budget for the restoration. In May, Main Street representatives and Elliott were before the board to discuss possible options. In May, Main Street members told the board and Elliott that they believed a powder coating might extend the outdoor life of the traffic dummy, but lack of pricing estimates had the board requesting that the association get some additional information and estimates before deciding whether to allocate the funds.

While Main Street Association members were researching and getting prices, however, Elliott returned to the board several weeks ago, having determined a cost for powder coating the dummy, and the board gave approval for it to be removed from Main Street so the process could begin.

Belt told the board that none of this had been communicated to the Main Street Association, which was working under the assumption that they were still to research restoration options and pricing. And in their research and speaking with metal experts, had learned that while powder coating might extend the outdoor life of the dummy, it is not ideal for metal intended to be in the elements constantly. Instead, covering both sides of the metal with an epoxy primer and paint is recommended for the greatest longevity. Also, the association had obtained a donor willing to cover at least part of the cost of the restorations.

However, while they were researching quotes for the restoration of the dummy, the Main Street Association was told by one company that they already had the dummy and had been given the job of powder coating it. The dummy had been removed from Main Street in mid-June.

Belt told the board a fellow Main Street Association member, Mickey Pieterse, had attempted to contact Elliott via email on June 14 and 15, to ask him not to move forward with the powder coating option, since information found by the association indicated epoxy painting would be more efficient, but did not receive a reply.

“We want to know, what is going on? What happened to the dummy?” Belt asked the board.

Select Board Chair Bill Condra told members of the Main Street Association attending the meeting that traffic signals, including the dummy, were under the purview of the Public Works Department. “I understand your desire to help, but we do have a public works director, and he was doing his job,” said Condra.

Select Board member Kermit Williams added that when Elliott moved forward with a powder coating option, it was following a meeting with the Main Street Association members who had recommended that option.

Pieterse voiced frustration that the Main Street Association hadn’t been kept in the loop, despite the board asking them to follow up on prices for restoring the dummy. “We were told to waste a lot of time,” she said. “We do have things to do. It would be nice if we could work together.”

Belt added that, while she understood the fact the dummy’s restoration falls under the public works department, she was disheartened that when the association attempted to contact Elliott about a possible alternative, they hadn’t gotten a response. “Why wouldn’t anyone want the best job possible?” she asked. “It is a historical landmark. I don’t understand it.”

Main Street Association President David McBee told the board that he felt the association and town had worked well together on several recent project, such as the summer festival, and hoped to continue that amicable relationship, and not just with the Select Board, but all town entities.

Condra told the association members that he would speak to Elliott to determine at what stage the repairs to the dummy were, as well as discuss the issues raised during the meeting.

Elliott could not be reached for comment by press time Wednesday.

The Select Board meets on alternating Mondays at 6:30 in the Town Hall.

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