RUMFORD – Pending advice from town attorney Thomas Carey regarding handicap accessible walkways, upper Congress Street pedestrians may be directed to the Dunkin’ Donuts side of the street.

Ron Theriault of Summit Insurance and Financial Services skirmished verbally with firefighters and fire Chief Gary Wentzell at Thursday night’s selectmen’s meeting regarding a painted walkway that crosses the fire station’s driveway.

Theriault accused firefighters of showing off by leaving firetrucks parked in the 1925 fire station’s driveway, protruding into the walkway.

He said that action forces pedestrians and wheelchair-bound people to skirt the firetrucks, putting them at risk from Congress Street traffic.

To alleviate that and any liability should a pedestrian doing so get struck, fire Chief Gary Wentzell suggested painting over the white walkway lines with black.

Wentzell also recommended that a crosswalk be painted from Franklin Savings Bank across upper Congress Street to the sidewalk at Dunkin’ Donuts. Theriault’s business is a few buildings down from Dunkin’ Donuts.

“I don’t know why after 50 to 75 years this has become such an issue,” Wentzell said. “This is childish. Let’s put an end to this.”

Theriault disagreed.

Frequently referring to the Americans with Disabilities Act, Theriault argued that it would be illegal to paint a crosswalk from the bank to Dunkin’ Donuts due to state transportation line-of-sight rules.

He said he has 12 wheelchair-bound clients and one blind client and, to make them cross the street to skirt firetrucks protruding into the walkway would also be illegal.

“You can’t deliberately put a public-funded vehicle across the walkway,” Theriault said.

“Parking firetrucks out on the apron is showing off. In Mexico, they take them out back to wash them or work on them. There is no excuse whatsoever for them to be parked outside the building. … This is ridiculous. You cannot legally block a walkway,” he added.

Theriault said the distance from outside of the curb to where firetrucks are parked in the driveway all day was 9 feet. That prompted a disbelieving Selectmen Chairman J. Arthur Boivin to leave the building with firefighters to measure the distance themselves.

Selectman Frank DiConzo then had to stifle a shouting match between Theriault and resident Ron Russell over who had the right to speak before Boivin reentered and told Theriault the distance was only 59 inches.

“I have never seen those trucks out that far,” Boivin said.

Fire Lt. Chris Bryant got Theriault to admit he wasn’t an expert regarding ADA rules.

Then Russell gained the floor.

“This is nothing new,” Russell said. “This is ridiculous. Those trucks got a right to be there. You’ve been an advocate of jumping on the fire department and putting fuel out there for a new fire station.”

“This is crazy. The thing is, you don’t like it,” Wentzell said to Theriault.

“I think it’s stupid,” Theriault said.

Mexico firefighter Mark Mayo said he’d never seen a sidewalk painted across a fire station driveway and suggested that the white lines be blacked out.

Town Manager Len Greaney concurred, but DiConzo asked to have Rumford’s lawyer examine what he called a safety issue.

“No stripes, no liability,” Wentzell said before Boivin ended discussion.


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