AUGUSTA — In response to a resident’s concerns about idling vehicles polluting the air outside Lincoln Elementary School and her home, city officials declined Thursday night to draft an anti-idling ordinance but agreed to put up signs encouraging motorists to shut down their engines.

Tracy Weber, who lives across from Lincoln Elementary School, said many people picking up their kids at the school leave their engines running while parked, spewing exhaust and making noise.

Weber said the fumes and noise enter her home, where she also works, and children coming to and from school are also exposed to the air pollution created by idling vehicles.

She said the practice also wastes gasoline.

Weber also said the problem of idling vehicles is not a seasonal concern. Many drivers leave their automobiles idling during the warmer months, too.

“It drives me crazy people are letting their cars run,” she told city councilors Thursday. “My house is 20 feet from the street, so that’s the air I breathe.”

City officials, who expressed concerns about enforcing such an ordinance, suggested first trying signs to encourage people to turn off their motors while parked near the school.

“I’d be happy to have signs made up and installed there, as a first step, without any formal council action,” City Manager William Bridgeo said. “We could have three or four signs made up stating, in a courteous fashion, that kids are breathing this air, please turn off your engines.”

Bridgeo said a recent search showed Bar Harbor is the only Maine municipality to have an anti-idling ordinance, which is only in force in the summer. He said Bar Harbor officials said their enforcement of the ordinance is “soft,” and the town manager could not recall a ticket having been written for an idling vehicle.

Augusta police Chief Jared Mills said his department does not have the resources to add enforcement of an anti-idling ordinance to its regular duties, but said officers could enforce it on an as-needed basis — if people call to complain about idling vehicles.

Mills added that police officers in winter are among the most likely drivers in the city to leave their vehicles running when parked. He said police cruisers have a lot of equipment that requires engines be kept running so the vehicles’ batteries are not depleted.

Bridgeo said fire trucks and ambulances also have the same need — to keep their motors running in cold conditions— to keep the vehicles, their contents and their occupants warm.

Mills agreed that vehicles left idling while parked are a problem at Lincoln School, which is on a short street tucked between busy Western Avenue and the residential west side neighborhood.

At-Large Councilor Raegan LaRochelle said if the city were to adopt an anti-idling ordinance, it might be difficult to enforce, especially because many drivers might be unaware  the city had passed an anti-idling ordinance.

LaRochelle said she favored putting up signs in the neighborhood to remind drivers to not let their engines idle, especially near the school.

Weber expressed satisfaction with the suggestions from city officials and agreed the signs would be a good first step toward getting people to turn off their cars and trucks.

Augusta does not have any ordinances regulating idling vehicles, according to Matt Nazar, development director.

He said the Planning Board has imposed conditions at certain building sites, where vehicles, such as delivery trucks, were not allowed to be left idling.

Such restrictions have typically been employed when a building project abutted a neighborhood where residents were bothered by the noise.


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