South Berwick police receive grant to enforce speed limits

Democrat Staff Writers

SOUTH BERWICK, Maine A grant recently awarded to the town will allow police to beef up speed limit enforcement in the coming months.

Police Chief Dana Lajoie said the $5,000 federal grant will help augment current enforcement already taking place to curb fast motorists.

The grant pays for additional enforcement hours on weekends and during the week. The schedule can be changed if the department decides speed enforcement is necessary at different times.

At a Town Council meeting Monday, Councilor Jean Demetrocopoulos said she would like to see police concentrate on Route 236 and Main and Portland streets.

"Those are places I would love to see more speed enforcement done," she said, adding she has seen a number of accidents in those areas.

Lajoie said the department will focus on issuing fewer warnings to speeders through town. With major thoroughfares such as Route 236 and Route 4 in South Berwick, drivers who don't mind the posted speed limit signs could face a ticket.

The patrol will be done in six-hour blocks, anywhere from noon until 11 p.m. "The goal will be to issue citations, rather than warning," said Lajoie. The speed enforcement officer on duty will be using a marked or an unmarked car to catch speeders.

In 2006, the department reported making 3052 motor vehicle stops and issued 414 citations, double the number made in 2005. Of the traffic stops made, 750 were on Route 236, and 676 were on Portland Street.

The grant pays for up to 150 hours of enforcement, but Town Manager Jeff Grossman said if the department uses the funds to cover the full 150 hours, it won't cover all costs because the town will need to pay Maine State Retirement fees and FICA costs. Grossman said while the grant will only provide about 130 hours of paid enforcement, the grant was given for funds, not hours.

"These grants are extremely flexible," Lajoie said.

The council approved the grant with the understanding that Lajoie work with the department to determine how to use those 20 hours.

"If it can't go toward the FICA then I would prefer to have the additional time on the road," Demetrocopoulos said. "It if can go toward FICA and the (benefits) then the chief can say best what to do.