2023-1 Special Town Meeting Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Q: How was the specific town allocation determined?
A: Under the State-Subdivision Agreement, 40% of the abatement funds received by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts will be allocated to municipalities. Town allocations were determined by the individual settlement agreements. The Town of Lexington will receive 0.509% of the Municipal Abatement Funds.
Q: Over the 17 years of the opioid payments, is Lexington giving consideration to joining with other — perhaps more heavily impacted — communities to develop joint programs, stretching all our dollars further?
A: Yes, the State is encouraging partnerships with other entities and communities, especially within the Public Health Excellence Shared Services grant communities. Lexington is part of the TriTon Shared Services Coalition, which consists of Burlington (lead), Wilmington, and Lexington. It is anticipated that as communities in the Commonwealth develop programs and services over the life of the settlement, more partnerships will develop, especially at a regional level.
Q: Do the schools and/or Board of Health believe we have a significant problem with opioid abuse in Lexington?
A: The opioid epidemic is an issue that affects everyone in all communities. One use of the settlement monies is to determine the extent it affects our residents. Is it a personal or family issue, a friend, a workplace issue, has someone been affected due to an accident or crime, or is treatment available? There are many ways the opioid epidemic can affect a person or a community as a whole.
Q: Has Lexington considered pooling our settlement resources with nearby towns who may have a greater need than us to develop a consolidated program that benefits all?
A: Yes, the State is encouraging partnerships with other entities and communities, especially within the Public Health Excellence Shared Services grant communities. Lexington is part of the TriTon Shared Serves Coalition, which consists of Burlington (lead), Wilmington, and Lexington. We anticipate, as communities in the Commonwealth develop programs and services over the life of the settlement, more partnerships will develop, especially on a regional level.
Q: Who would be responsible for developing any programs with the settlement money, and what can be shared at this time about what is planned?
A: The goal is to form a working group made up of staff, residents, people with lived experience, and professional groups to develop and engage in the work needed to address this epidemic. Currently, staff have met to begin the work. The Health Department has applied for and received a Controlled Substances Registration and can now order naloxone (Narcan) free from the State. Rescue kits have been designed and will soon be placed in first responder vehicles and available for residents to pick up at the Health Department. Narcan trainings and other education programs are in planning stages.
Q: Re Article 6, slide #4: Don't first responders already carry Narcan, fentanyl testing strips, and masks?
A: First responders carry Narcan (and PPE) in case the first responder needs to administer it. The rescue kits would be for distribution to residents/family members to have on hand if the need arises, and the kit contains more than Narcan. The rescue kits will be available at the Health Department and in the first responders’ vehicles.
Q: How many Lexington households live on Walnut Street, and how many are in favor of this pilot program (assuming the TSG reached out to all households for input)?
A: There are 18 single family houses and a residential living complex that front Walnut Street. 11 single family homes on Walnut Street support traffic calming in addition to more residents in the Potter Pond Neighborhood.
Q: After the pilot program is complete, what will the criteria be to determine if permanent speed humps should be installed? The memo indicates there will be a "neighborhood evaluation" and permanent humps will be installed if the neighborhood agrees — how will neighborhood agreement be determined? Will you include an evaluation of the households on Cart Path Lane and Stage Coach Rd (who have to access Walnut Street to leave their homes)?
A: Residents who live on Walnut, Potter Pond, and in the Cart Path neighborhood will be invited to pre, midway, and post meetings. Speed and traffic counts will be conducted.
Q: Is there data on accident occurrence on Walnut Street?
A: There have been 5 accidents between July 2018 and July 2023.
Q: Has there been any analysis/consideration of addressing the problems on Walnut Street by converting it to a one-way street?
A: Yes, that has been discussed. One-way may change the volume but is unlikely to reduce speeds. A one-way is not practicable as there is not a convenient route in the opposite direction.
Q: The amount of funding requested for this speed hump "pilot" is $101,000. How does this compare to the cost of skipping the pilot phase and just installing some speed humps? I assume the engineering study would still be needed to determine spacing, number, etc., so how much does just that piece cost? And then how much for installation of permanent speed humps?
A: The engineering study will cost approximately $8,000. This includes a contingency. Permanent (asphalt) speed humps will cost approximately $4,500 per each hump. Cost depends on design and whether it can be combined with other asphalt projects.
Q: Spending $101k on a pilot represents an attempt to proceed cautiously. Who among the stakeholders in this process are urging this level of caution, and are their concerns worth $101k?
A: You are correct. We are being cautious, as DPW and the Fire Department are not in favor of the program. The TSG is proposing this program as an alternative to permanent speed humps so municipal departments can trial the humps and they can be removed if the impacts to town operations cannot be resolved. Public safety and DPW are against the speed humps for the following reasons:
- The Fire Department is against the speed hump program on this street or any other, and they feel alternative options should be used. Speed bumps, humps, tables, etc., have a negative impact on public safety responses. Each “bump” can add 6–10 seconds to the time of response. Historically, a fire doubles in size every minute, causing concern for the Fire Department regarding any delay in response time. The concept also extends to delays in medical aid responses where every second counts when someone is not breathing. As noted, damage can also occur to the suspensions of apparatuses that carry upwards of 750 gallons of water. Walnut St specifically is a street of concern as there are two group homes in Lexington that require Fire and EMS responses, as well as the Meadow Green Rehabilitation and Nursing Center on the town line in Waltham. The Waltham Fire Department has a fire station at the end of the street located at 699 Trapelo Rd on the corner of Woburn Street (our Walnut St) and utilizes the street as an emergency response route into Lexington. They routinely use this road to assist Lexington Fire on responses to our neighborhood and station coverage in East Lexington.
- DPW has expressed concern that speed humps make it more difficult to plow and treat the road during winter events. They also need to be maintained and there is no current funding in the operations budget to maintain the speed humps. There is also concern on the additional wear and tear on DPW equipment.
Q: The concerns stated in the presentation are general, long-standing concerns and are not specific to this particular street (Walnut St). Which of the concerns are actually relevant to Walnut Street? For instance, what town equipment would be at risk of damage by speed humps in this location? (And is it potentially more that $101K worth of damage?)
A: These are longstanding concerns that continue to be expressed by the Fire Department for any roads. Something that slows traffic also slows emergency response times. Specifically, there are concerns of breaking springs and struts on the firetrucks. Weston Fire broke a spring on their truck, which took the truck out for repair. Also, not all residents like them, as they can be noisy during traffic times.
Q: Why Salem as a model? Why not Belmont? The town of Belmont has been installing speed humps and speed tables in various locations for many years. Most recently two speed humps were installed on Winter St between Marsh and Concord. This was done without a $101K + 2 years pilot phase. Could we ask Belmont about their thought process and how it's working out for them?
A: Belmont’s experience is useful; however, they have installed many humps and tables in their roads. The residents and town operations are used to it. Lexington does not have the same experience. The temporary program provides an iterative approach that can be trialed by residents and public safety. Salem has set up a program so that residents and town staff can experience the humps before they become permanent.
Q: Piloting projects is sometimes a useful exercise. However, before piloting a speed hump project it would be helpful to augment these limited slides with more complete information. Please define speed humps as you plan to use them in Lexington. What do they look like specifically?
A: Speed humps are parabolic shaped humps on the roadway, approximately 3 inches high with a sloped approach. The width depends on the speeds. Speed tables are similar but with a flat top and are often combined with crosswalks.
Q: Please include any and all models/sizes that the pilot would test.
A: The exact model and size would be determined during the engineering study.
Q: If this model of rubber speed hump is seen as effective in the pilot, what is the criteria for identifying where and why we would install more of these in the future?
A: Identifying criteria will be part of the study.
Q: What is the annual operational/maintenance cost of the selected models that would be installed after the pilot?
A: Because the proposal includes temporary humps, new hardware is needed each year to attach them to the road. The humps are modular, so we can change the size and replace warn pieces if/as needed.
Q: How was Walnut Street selected as a good model for piloting "speed humps?"
A: Walnut has speeds that are surprisingly high for a narrow road with little room for error. Walnut was chosen for several reasons:
- It was requested by residents.
- Driving speeds remain high despite “easy” traffic calming measures such as centerline striping.
- Walnut has high traffic volume during peak commute hours.
- Lexington has a Town-wide speed limit of 25 MPH and speed humps at the edge of the town provides a reminder to drivers of that speed limit.
- Being on the edge of the town, Walnut will have less of an impact on response times in relation to other streets.
Q: Walnut Street is a cut through street, is quite narrow at points, and [has] limited sight lines. How many speed humps did you envision placing?
A: The engineering study will determine the number. Typically, they are in pairs, but not always. The budget includes up to four.
Q: $100,000 cost to pilot. But what is the cost to install many more of these and maintain them? Please provide a cost model for this.
A: Should the Town decide they want to continue the program after this one is complete in two years, the cost will be about $24,000 to install them for reuse each year, assuming four speed humps are deployed.
Q: To compare, how much does it cost to paint a stop line at a stop sign that is already installed?
A: Painting stop lines is a minimal cost, but painting and striping is usually clustered together with other painting projects, which can impact the timing of the request and implementation.
Q: The following is written in the Select Board Position Statement: "This pilot program will allow the Town to evaluate the effectiveness and impact of speed humps on Town operations and will further help the Town gather data and build out criteria for possibly using permanent speed humps as a traffic calming tool." Are the speed humps envisioned similar to those on Shade Street? If so, can't we use the experience on Shade Street to "evaluate the effectiveness and impact" without doing this pilot program?
A: Part of this pilot program will provide the opportunity for residents to experience the installation of speed humps on their street and help develop criteria based on those resident experiences. Walnut is a hillier road than Shade Street, and there was not a survey of Shade Street residents or pre-installation speed data collected.
Q: Is there enough space in the Walnut Lane right-of-way to build a sidewalk? If not, has there been discussion with residents for a land taking to build a sidewalk?
A: There appears to be enough right-of-way for the construction of a sidewalk, but the road would require a survey to confirm if there is adequate space. The residents have indicated interest in the construction of a sidewalk on Walnut.
Q: The concern about damage from speed humps to large, emergency vehicles seems to be legitimate and well documented. Many sources I am reading suggest that either "speed tables" or "speed cushions" are frequently a better approach. Were these solutions evaluated and rejected for some reason? For reference, the sources I'm using are a NACTO best practices report and the FHWA's traffic calming primer.
A: Using speed cushions where the fire trucks can straddle or humps is a possibility. The decision of the final design (humps, cushions, or tables) will be decided by the public safety departments, Transportation Safety Group, and the designing engineer.
Q: What other alternatives have been considered for improving safety and traffic calming on Walnut Street? Did you consider narrowing the street periodically to one lane width (possibly with stop signs) to allow one vehicle to pass at a time? Cars would have to slow or stop to allow for arriving vehicle to pass first. Emergency vehicles could still pass quickly as a priority.
A: This was not considered. It is an interesting idea. I would be concerned about drivers ignoring the stop.
Q: We are told that "Walnut Street has seen consistently high speeds." What is the data (perhaps compiled from the flashing speed sign) on speeds on Walnut Street?
A: The most recent speed taken in January 2023 were 32 MPH northbound and 35 MPH southbound. Another speed recording taken in June 2023 was 34.1 MPH in both directions. These are the 85th percentile speeds. Industry standards for speed compliance are to see 85% of drivers going at or below the speed limit.
Q: What is the vote counting process and how quickly will the result be known?
A: Currently, votes are tabulated via the voting machines, and a tally tape is generated. The results are brought back to the Town Clerk’s Office (TCO) and manually input into a spreadsheet. Ballots are scanned by election staff at the precinct for hand count votes and then recorded on the Precinct Clerk’s tally information, which is also brought back to the Office for manual input, as well.
A set of preliminary results is posted via the website and bulletin board as soon as possible on the night of the election.
After review of any write-ins or provisional ballots, the numbers are then updated to show final results.
If ranked choice voting is implemented, it will be the plan of the TCO to purchase return of votes software that would automatically input results from the tally tapes. Procedures regarding write-in votes and provisional ballots would remain the same and require manual updating.
Q: What do the results look like?
A: We will update this answer when we receive details from the vendor.
Q: What is the plan for voter education?
A: Assuming approval, the Town Clerk will work with both the vendor and the Town staff to create educational material that would be available at the polls and on the Town website, as well as possible direct mailings and online tutorials. Local media outlets and other groups, such as the League of Women Voters, will also be approached with the possibility of partnering on disseminating the data.
Q: How do the paper ballots and counting software work when some seats are RCV and others are not?
A: The programming of the ballot machines is able to differentiate on “how” each race will be counted. Test decks of 50 ballots are always tested prior to each election for each ballot style in order to ascertain different outcome scenarios, blank ballots, overvotes, etc.
Q: How are the write-in candidates are counted in RCV?
A: There are a couple ways to handle write-in votes for RCV. Generally, customers will run the RCV tabulation with all write-ins lumped together. If the sum of write-in votes is eliminated in the first round, then no single candidate in the group would have any effect on the outcome and no further work is necessary.
In a case where the sum of write-in votes does advance in rounds, then the write-in votes would have to be adjudicated. The adjudication process involves adding qualified write-ins to the candidate list in the database (EED). Then, using the adjudication application, each ballot is viewed on the screen and the write-in is assigned to a qualified write-in candidate or is marked as rejected. After every ballot is reviewed and adjudicated, you can return to RTR and tabulate the RCV again. This time the write-in votes will be broken out and assigned to the qualified write-in candidates. These candidates will be eliminated or advance in rounds the same way as candidates on the ballot. This will give you the final RCV tabulation results.
Q: Can you limit the number of choices of rankings? For example, if there are 2 seats and 15 candidates run, can you limit the number of choices to 5?
A: If the bylaw limits or prohibits certain items, it is my understanding that coding can be developed to accommodate it.