Election, other signs plucked from yards along state highway



Published: 04-27-2017 5:46 PM

DEERFIELD — At a Massachusetts Department of Transportation depot in Deerfield, there’s a corner behind the heavy machinery and garages dedicated to signs plucked from the side of state roads.

The signs advertise open houses, garage sales and political candidates — and they’ve all seen happier times. A dirty Donald Trump sign lays feet away from a crumpled Clinton/Kaine sign. Green Party candidate Jill Stein also has a few signs in the heap.

The state-sponsored yard sign culling came to light after a small-town imbroglio in Hatfield this week. On Tuesday morning, a resident stopped by Town Clerk Lydia Szych’s office. Apparently, MassDOT crews in a yellow truck pulled up to the woman’s house on West Street (Routes 5 and 10), took a sign for a candidate in the upcoming town election on May 16, and rolled off.

Szych called her dad, Edward Betsold, who lived farther to the south. He had four signs for various candidates planted in his yard. He beat the MassDOT crew to the signs.

“The truck stopped and I went out there and moved my signs back,” Betsold, 85, said Tuesday.

In small towns, word travels fast.

“We’re assuming it’s because the signs were too close to the road,” Szych said of the MassDOT plucking.

Though Szych is unopposed for re-election in the upcoming election, she still distributed signs throughout town.

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“Those signs are expensive,” she said. “If there was an issue, fine, but couldn’t they have at least called the town?”

Szych said a call would have saved her annoyed calls from residents — and a trip to the Deerfield depot to retrieve remaining Hatfield signs — but conceded “they were within their right to do what they did if the signs were in the state highway boundaries.”

In Betsold’s day, there was no problem with yard signs close to the roadway. “We had them closer to the road than that in the old days,” he said.

A call to the Northampton MassDOT office Tuesday night was forwarded to the agency’s Boston offices. Patrick Martin, a MassDOT spokesman, said anyone who wants to put signs inside a state highway right of way first needs a permit.

As part of the permitting process, you have to submit sign legends, proposed locations and other information.

“Without a permit, these signs should be placed outside the state highway limits, typically beyond the utility pole layout line,” Martin wrote in an email. “Public safety concerns include obscuring visibility, obstructions in the recovery zone, damage to vehicles if struck, driver distraction, hazard/debris, and litter when they are not picked up.”

Anyone with a missing sign can check the sign pile at the MassDOT depot in Deerfield, 93 Massachusetts Route 116 (Sunderland Road).

Town election races

As far as the election, there are few contested races. The highest office up for grabs is a seat on the Select Board.

Three residents filed to fill the remaining two years of former Selectman Marcus J. Boyle’s term. Boyle resigned in February for personal reasons. The residents are Cindy A. Doty, director of town emergency management; Finance Committee member Fran Gougeon; and resident Gerald Gower.

Christopher G. Smith faces Scott McCoy for a seat on the Board of Assessors, and Michael Paszek is challenging incumbent Laura Lee Drouin-Bertram to be the town’s collector-treasurer.

The annual Town Meeting is May 9, when residents will vote on the town budget and other articles.

Jack Suntrup can be reached at jsuntrup@gazettenet.com.