Four towns crack down

ANCRAM—This town has been steeped in discussion about how best to deal with speeders for years.

But Ancram is not the only town along Columbia County’s eastern edge dealing with the problem of lead-footed drivers threatening the country calm—Copake, Hillsdale and Austerlitz all face the same challenges.

At its September 10 meeting, the Copake Town Board took up the matter of needed speed reductions in several spots around town. Back in July, the board received a comprehensive letter from West Copake resident Stephen Sanborn on the subject.

Mr. Sanborn pointed to the increased number of part-time residents, who have now become full-time residents and the ramping up of commercial activity as the state gradually re-opens. He said those factors are responsible for the overall surge in the amount of traffic in the vicinity of county routes 7 and 7A in West Copake.

It’s not only cars, but 18-wheeler trucks and even “bright yellow highway department trucks” that “routinely greatly exceed the 35 mph limit,” he said.

Mr. Sanborn also cited stories in The Columbia Paper about Ancram’s purchase and deployment of radar speed signs and Hillsdale’s consideration of speed reductions to 30 mph on numerous town roads. His concern was not just about the dangers that come with speeding but also the noise.

In a September 9 email to the Town Board, West Copake resident Susan Ochshorn echoed Mr. Sanborn’s observations about the noise level and traffic safety adding, “the steady stream of cars and trucks”…are “a constant presence as motorists violate the speed limit of 35 mph with impunity.”


‘Ancram enforces its traffic laws.’

Councilman Hugh Clark

Town of Ancram


The Copake Town Board heard from Supervisor Jeanne Mettler at the September meeting that she had discussed the problem with resident Deputy Joseph Kilmer, who suggested that the 35 mph speed zone through West Copake be extended further south to Camp Pontiac. Councilman Stosh Gansowski agreed that extending the speed zone may help, but not lowering the limit even more, noting, “35 is really slow, 30 is really, really slow.”

Ms. Mettler said a resolution extending the speed zone would be prepared in time for the October 8 meeting.

At its September 17 meeting, the Ancram Town Board heard an in-depth analysis about the town’s traffic safety situation from Councilman Hugh Clark, who spent 30 years as a military police officer and police commissioner in a former life. He discussed who the law breakers are and if their law-breaking is real or just perceived. He mentioned the possible deterrents brought about by being stopped for speeding such as the loss of time, especially for truckers, fees incurred, hikes in insurance rates, the inconvenience or embarrassment of going to court and points accruing on one’s license.

He said drivers must learn that “Ancram enforces its traffic laws” and “Ancram doesn’t tolerate speeding.”

Stop signs do not reduce speeding, he said. If stop signs appear too often, drivers get irritated and speed up to make up for having to stop so much. “Stop signs are not intended as a speed control device, they are supposed to convey right of way,” said Mr. Clark. In addition to the town’s radar speed signs which have produced good results, the councilman mentioned other tactics such as: rumble strips, speed humps and tables. He said residents could put up lawn signs, that with the right message have been shown to reduce speeds by 6 mph. A sign might read, “Obey the sign or pay the fine,” he said.

Resident Deputy Kilmer made a guest appearance at the Zoom meeting, telling the board, the local increase in police presence, word of mouth, newspaper articles are all working to convey the message, “when you come through Ancram you can’t speed.”

The deputy said now that the Taconic State Park/Bash Bish Falls detail has been concluded, both State Police and sheriff’s deputies will be freed up to help with more enforcement. He said in the past two days alone he had issued over a half dozen speeding tickets.

The deputy has found both locals and weekenders are the speeding culprits. In answer to a question from Councilwoman Bonnie Hundt, Deputy Kilmer said, “Yes the [radar speed] signs work.” He added that he will modify his shifts to include a couple of 3 a.m. patrols. “Whatever we’ve got to do to be in the right place at the right time.”

Councilman David Boice motioned and the board agreed to purchase an additional two Evolis radar speed signs at a total cost of $5,000. The new signs will be mounted on permanent steel posts and stay out through the winter.

Supervisor Art Bassin noted that the Town of Austerlitz already has a contract for more police presence to combat its speeding problem.

State Police and deputies are all over our roads right now,” said Mr. Boice.

Mr. Bassin said the town is getting a high level of cooperation from law enforcement. They say “tell us what you need” and they endeavor to provide it, he said.

The Ancram Town Board meets next October 15, starting with a public hearing on the 2021 preliminary budget at 6:45 p.m.

To contact Diane Valden email

Comments are closed.