SHAFTSBURY >> The Shaftsbury Select Board is moving forward with taking control of what was formerly a private cemetery and potentially lowering the speed limit on Elm Street.
Should nobody come forward in the next three months and agree to take responsibility for the Shaftsbury Hollow Cemetery, which was privately controlled until this year, it will come under the control of the town. "We're doing this because we were petitioned by three voters, as the state requires, to take over the maintenance of Shaftsbury Hollow Cemetery," said Select Board Chairman Tim Scoggins, "When that happens, there's a procedure we need to go through, which includes giving notice in the newspaper for three months to see if anybody else wants to take over the cemetery. If nobody does, then it falls to the town to maintain."
Town administrator David Kiernan said it will take work to clean up the cemetery, and that work will have to be budgeted for in the next fiscal year. He said the Vermont League of Cities and Towns had been pushing to change the law, which represents the only time a town is mandated to take over a private property and maintain it. That bill went before the Legislature early this year, and failed.
The town, on paper, controls 16 cemeteries, one of which cannot be found on modern records, and maintains four, said Kiernan. The town agreed earlier this year to take over operation of Grandview Cemetery, which he did not include in that count, but noted that the maintenance of that cemetery will also have to be budgeted for next year and beyond.
Several Elm Street residents had requested the change from the board, arguing that people were driving much too fast for safety on their dirt road. The speed limit is currently 35 miles per hour, faster than on paved White Creek Road, where the speed limit is only 25 mph. Residents said people seemed to be using their road as a shortcut to get to Route 67 without going through the center of North Bennington, where the speed limit is also 25 mph.
"There are procedures that have to be done to change any speed limit in the state," said Kiernan, "The first one is demonstrating a need, and part of that is having a survey, a count of the cars and the speed they're traveling." He said he would have to make staggered appearances, at different times of day, to get a sense of how quickly cars are traveling, the volume of traffic, and if those speeds are dangerous for the road. He said a sample of 100-200 cars would probably be adequate.
Rod Cameron, who lives nearby, said, "I've seen quite a few things that have happened there that are due to speed. There's a lot of people that walk their dogs, people walk with their kids up and down there, and (cars) go through there like crazy. If something isn't done there's going to be a problem at some point." He said that just the other night a car had been going too quickly near the curve by Dunham Avenue, and had sideswiped a telephone pole, but continued on without stopping. Other residents confirmed that cars going temporarily off the road was a fairly common sight.
Kiernan said signs had been put up on the road displaying the current speed, but they had been installed incorrectly. They should be back up within the next week, he said. If the survey of cars shows a need to lower the speed, an ordinance would need to be drafted, and that process can take about six months.
The Shaftsbury Select Board meets the first and third Monday of every month at 6:30 p.m. at Cole Hall on Buck Hill Road in Shaftsbury. Full recordings of the meetings are available on Catamount Access Television, and on the station's YouTube page.
Derek Carson can be reached for comment at 802-447-7567, ext. 122.