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DORSET — Someone has a powerful motorcycle, a need for speed and an apparent disregard for the posted limits on Route 30, Dorset West Road and elsewhere.

Neighbors have had enough, and the town and multiple police agencies are doing something about it.

The Dorset Select Board raised questions about the mystery rider at Tuesday night’s meeting as part of a broader discussion on speed and traffic enforcement on Route 30, in and around Dorset Village.

That discussion was prompted by a petition, signed by 52 residents, asking that more be done to lower speeds and improve pedestrian safety. Potential solutions could include additional radar signs and even pursuing taking control of Route 30 back from the Vermont Agency of Transportation.

Town Manager Rob Gaiotti told the board Bennington County Sheriff’s Department and the Manchester Police Department are aware of the scofflaw motorcyclist. The Northshire Community Forum post indicated that the rider has also operated at high speeds in Manchester as well, in the downtown area and on Manchester West Road.

Staff Sgt. Chris Miller, who regularly patrols Dorset for the Sheriff’s Department, said he has received multiple complaints. The department has a “person of interest” in mind and is adding patrols at the town’s request in an effort to intercept the rider.

“There’s no set time frame he’s traveling — it’s kind of sporadic,” Miller said. “We are conducting additional patrols of certain areas, and I have personally changed my schedule to help assist with that complaint.”

The Sheriff’s Department is under contract to patrol Dorset at least 40 hours per week. Gaiotti said manpower concerns have limited the department’s ability to go above and beyond that amount, but that arrangements are being made to add patrols.

But apprehending the rider — who, Miller said, is going fast enough to be arrested, rather than ticketed — is not as easy as it looks.

Like many police departments, the Sheriff’s Department has policies about when it’s safe to engage in a high-speed chase, {span style=”background-color: #deffde;”},{/span}to protect the risk to the community, the rider and officers.

“It’s a really hard thing to stop somebody operating at a high rate of speed,” Miller said. “There’s always a chance they’ll crash and hurt themselves. But at what point, traveling at a high rate of speed, will they cause injury to somebody else? It’s a hard line we’re trying to hold.”

Board member Liz Ruffa said the sound generated by the bike as it passes her home is “terrifying … There’s going to be an accident. It’s horrible.”

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Fellow board member Jim Salsgiver has heard the rider as well, and says the motorcycle makes a distinctive noise at high speeds. “It’s always the same sound,” he said.

Board Chairwoman Megan Thorn is also aware of the situation — and said the rider is going so fast that it’s “not safe for police to try to catch him.”

The discussion followed the presentation of the petition, citing “drivers’ constant disregard for traffic laws,” as well as the speeding motorcyclist.

The petitions seeks upgraded permanent radar warning signs with cameras on Route 30 southbound entering Dorset Village, and on Dorset West Road; restoration of the crosswalk at the post office, with signs and a push button red light; and upgraded law enforcement, among other initiatives.

At the board’s direction, Gaiotti will inquire into purchasing a new permanent radar sign, look into whether the Post Office crosswalk needs repainting, and find out whether it makes sense to assume responsibility for Route 30 from VTrans.

“It’s a quality of life concern for people who live on the road,” Gaiotti said. “It shows that it’s an issue people are concerned with. We’ll definitely follow up.”

The town already has made some improvements aimed at calming traffic and enhancing safety, Gaiotti said, noting the Post Office crosswalk and another across Church Street, and adding curbing to encourage slower speeds.

Thorn and Salsgiver said, even if the town were to take such action, it would only be as effective as the town’s ability to enforce the rules of the road.

“We’ve done things that seem like a plus,” Salsgiver said, noting that speed limits on Route 30 from the Manchester line north to H.N. Williams Store and south heading into Dorset Village had been lowered to 40 mph.

“The honest truth is getting people to drive slower is not an easy thing. Law enforcement presence is the one thing that will have the biggest impact, but that’s hard to do unless you have someone planted there all the time,” he said.

“Even if we took over Route 30, the speed limit is 30 in the village,” Thorn added. “The question isn’t the speed limit; it’s getting people to follow the speed limit.”

As for turning Route 30 from a state highway into a Class 1 town road, “there are positives and negatives — but it is a process,” Gaiotti said. “We can definitely do more research and have more information about it. You do have the ability to have different signage and different strategies from a traffic calming standpoint.”

Reach Greg Sukiennik at gsukiennik@manchesterjournal.com or at 802-447-7567, ext. 119.


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