Tom Rutherford said he's seen plenty of accidents at the intersection of Route 2A and Bartherick/Depot Road in Westminster.
Many have been minor fender-benders, but he's also seen his share of major collisions, and even a school bus tearing the engine off a car, he said.
"The visibility is perfect, but people just blow stop signs," said Rutherford, who has lived just yards from the intersection since 1984. "That's just the fact."
So Rutherford said he isn't a fan of a proposal by owners of Westminster Business Park to remove a police detail for hundreds of 10-wheel trucks that travel the intersection each day.
Owners of the business park, an industrial development site of more than 300 acres on Bartherick Road, send truckloads of sand and gravel in and out of the park on a daily basis.
The park's owners make money by selling and transporting the sand and gravel they remove as they develop the park.
Business park owners pay $90,000 each year, as part of an earlier agreement reached with the town, for a police officer to stop and direct traffic when trucks enter the intersection, Westminster Police Chief Salvatore Albert said.
Now, owners are saying they want the police officer removed. "We're paying all that money for a police detail to be there every weekday from 7:30 (a.m.) to 3:30 (p.m.)," said Bob Hakala, president of the general contracting company Hakala Brothers Corporation. "It's a cost thing, but we're also afraid the police officer is going to die of boredom."
Albert has called for formal discussions with business park owners and town leaders to try to strike a compromise.
Selectmen, who have opposed the removal of the police detail, say they expect to hear results of the discussions at the board's Sept. 17 meeting.
But so far, Albert said, he hasn't heard from anyone.
"No one's called me," he said. "I'm hoping they call after Labor Day."
Development of the park began in 1990, and has switched ownership a handful of times.
Hakala, who has been part-owner of the business park since 2000, noted that fewer trucks traverse the intersection lately, partially due to the lagging economy.
"We're permitted for up to 350 truck trips a day -- 175 in and 175 out," Hakala said. "Right now, we're doing less than 30 trucks a day."
Park co-owner Steve Powell, president of Powell Stone & Gravel, stressed that drivers take extensive safety precautions.
"Our drivers are Class-A certified, they drive eight to 10 hours a day, and they're drug-tested," said Powell, who has been a part-owner of the park for about a year. "They go to safety meetings. We have a great, great track record."
But for some town leaders, track records don't matter.
Westminster resident Donna Brownell said she still supports the detail, even though Powell employees "aren't bad drivers."
"The point is that you're adding big trucks to an already-dangerous intersection," said Brownell, founder and president of the non-profit organization Watchdogs for an Environmentally Safe Town (W.E.S.T.).
Opponents of removing the police detail, like Brownell and Rutherford, saw their argument fueled Aug. 21, when a driver ran a stop sign and collided with a Powell Stone & Gravel 10-wheel truck.
The accident occurred at the corner of Route 2A and South Ashburnham Road, less than a mile from the intersection in question.
Brownell said the accident highlighted the need for a detail.
"It's not about whose fault the accident is -- the fact remains it's a really, really busy road."
Powell noted his frustration when the accident occurred, just a day after business park leaders appeared at a selectmen's meeting to try to get the detail removed.
"You have no idea how tough that was," Powell said. "Everyone's tendency is sort of to blame contractors, but that accident wasn't our fault. It could have happened anywhere. If you blow stop signs, people get hurt."
Albert, the police chief, called the crash "ironic."
"(Powell Stone & Gravel) wasn't found at fault," he said.
"Still, it underscores the need for monitoring safety, and a police presence."
Albert said 62 accidents have occurred at the Bartherick Road/Route 2A intersection in the last two years.
While none have directly involved Powell trucks, Albert was quick to note that only one accident took place during police detail hours.
The accident total is high in comparison to other intersections, he added.
Only seven accidents occurred during a two-year period at the intersection of Main, South and Leominster streets, a area where town leaders have pushed for renovations due to safety concerns.
The Bartherick/Route 2A intersection -- whose accident total is nearly nine times as high -- needs a traffic light, according to Board of Selectman Chairman Tom O'Toole.
"It's simple," he said. "We just need a light there."
Powell said he agrees, but installing a traffic light may not be in the cards, he said.
"We spent about $100,000 on a traffic study that was submitted to MassHighway, and we basically told them we wanted to pay for a traffic light," Powell said. "MassHighway told us there wasn't enough traffic to qualify for one."
The study, conducted last year by traffic engineer Geod Associates, found that roughly 8,000 cars travel through the intersection each day.
Adam Hurtubise, a spokesperson for MassHighway, said intersections with less than 11,000 cars per day do not warrant traffic lights.
Park Engineer Charles Scott said the business park "is between a rock and a hard place" when he spoke at the selectmen's meeting on Aug. 20.
"We care about safety, but at the same time, we don't see the need for a police detail," he said.
Selectmen said the need for a detail will only increase as the school year begins.
"Traffic is heavy, especially when school is in session," Selectman Nicholas Hay said. "You have moms and dads coming back from vacation, you have people getting on Route 2 -- it's a very heavily-traveled area."
Hakala said he plans to call Albert in the coming days to set up talks.
Albert said he hopes sides can reach a compromise.
"Maybe they can reduce their hours, work just on certain days," Albert said.
Hakala said the business "doesn't work that way."
"If people need stuff, they need stuff," he said. "They're not going to be wanting materials on the whim of our schedules."
Leaders have sought other compromises, but so far, none have caught on.
Scott suggested using a GPS system to monitor truck activity by sending a signal back to the police station.
Brownell said technology "can't replace a human being."
"Technology is a great thing, but any response to anything that happened would be after the fact," she said.
Albert expressed hope that he can work with local politicians to appeal to MassHighway for an exception to its traffic light standard.
But MassHighway "doesn't make exceptions," Hakala said.
"They have a formula," he said. "They don't like lights, period, because they hold up traffic."
Hurtubise, however, said MassHighway "would be willing to listen" if town or local leaders wanted to revisit the issue.
While both sides have expressed understanding of the other's concern, neither has surrendered its stance.
"I'm not saying their logic is actually wrong," Albert said. "It's a financial thing for them, and $90,000 is a lot of money."
Likewise, Powell said he understands why some residents are upset.
"They've been sitting through this thing for 18 years, and they're upset with how long it's taken, and rightfully so," Powell said. "But contractors tend to get a bad wrap. You need your roads and bridges -- everything like that comes from things like this."
But Rutherford said he'd rather not get into discussions about the role of the business park. "For me, it's just about sticking to the agreement," he said. "If trucks come out, there's supposed to be a detail there. Just stick to the agreement."