RUMFORD — After considerable discussion Thursday night, selectmen unanimously agreed to restrict parking to one side only on Hancock Street.
Selectman Jeff Sterling's motion was to shift the yellow center line toward the west side of the street from Lincoln Avenue to Sagadahoc Avenue and to paint parking lanes on the east side of the street south from Strafford Avenue toward Lincoln and north along the straightaway.
Board Chairman Greg Buccina called it a proactive approach that would prevent traffic from crossing the center line to run the gauntlet between vehicles parked on either side of Hancock Street, especially during nearby Hosmer Field Complex functions.
It took the board a while to reach that consensus.
Immediately after Buccina announced the twice-tabled agenda item, Selectman Jeremy Volkernick motioned to take no action on it.
Buccina said he wouldn't support the motion.
He based that on conversations with Hancock Street residents and his own experiences there.
Volkernick then explained his reasoning based on living and driving through there. He said people primarily park along the east or right-hand side of Hancock Street.
“Very seldom do you see people park on the left-hand side, and if you do, it's probably somebody parking in front of their house, probably bringing groceries in,” Volkernick said.
“They pay taxes. Don't they have a right to park there and bring their groceries in?”
“Most of the time, I'd say 95 percent of the time, people park on the right-hand side from Lincoln Avenue to Sagadahoc,” he said.
“Very, very seldomly do you see people park beyond Sagadahoc all the way down to Mountain Valley High School.”
He said he chose to take no action “because there is no problem.”
Volkernick continued to champion his point, raising his voice and interrupting Buccina frequently until two people from the audience explained the problem. That changed his mindset.
Resident and businessman Eric Giroux said he checked the street during the last MVHS football game and said a serious safety hazard exists along certain sections of Hancock Street due to the parking issue.
Hancock Street resident Ted Hotham expounded on that.
“All we're asking is keep the west side open and allow parking on the east side, because that's where most of it is, but regulate that so that when you come out of Strafford you don't have to pull out across the yellow line,” he said.
Hotham said large trucks and sport-utility vehicles park on the west side, screening oncoming traffic from drivers trying to enter the street or forcing them to stop, reverse, and then turn sharper to get around them.
He then told Volkernick there aren't any homes on the west side where people would park to carry in groceries.
“People park because there's nothing that says they can't park and what we're asking is that that be made a no-parking zone on that side of the street only, allow parking on the east side, on the right headed toward the high school,” Hotham said.
Additionally, he told the board to ensure that people don't park within 15 feet of intersections.
After more discussion, selectmen unanimously killed Volkernick's motion, and then Sterling suggested the final solution and it was made into a motion and accepted.
However, when Sterling suggested waiting until spring to make the change, Hotham wanted it done prior to snowfall accumulation. He said plowed snow along both sides of the road that isn't removed exacerbates the problem.