BERLIN – Berlin Police Chief Peter Morency was scheduled to outline his proposal establishing a permitting process for ATV use to the city council last night.
Last week, Morency told the police commission ATV permits would be handled the same way bicycle registrations are now with no fee charged.The permit would allow him to gather information on ATV use and users as well as how many and what kinds of complaints are being generated.
Morency said he had met with Fish and Game officials and it was suggested at some point there should be a Coos Country permit, not just a Berlin permit.
But some city officials are concerned implementing a permit system might discourage the growing ATV business in town.
City Councilor Roland Theberge said some councilors are opposed to the suggestion of permits.
“The problem I’m hearing is that Milan and Gorham don’t have permits and while the permits might be free now, the concern is that might change in the future,” he said. “We need to make sure we stay ATV friendly.”
Morency said things need to be taken in stages. The city just allowed ATV use of city streets to access Wingzilla. It would be his proposal that the next step would be to allow ATV riders to travel from Berlin homes to the trail access. But he is concerned about making sure unlicensed drivers are not operating ATVs on town roads. He said he’s heard stories of unlicensed drivers driving ATVs to school.
Theberge asked if there wasn’t already a law about ATV drivers having to be licensed.
“Last week we have an accident with a 15 and a half year old who shouldn’t have been on the road,” Morency said. “My job is public safety. I’ve seen other communities just open the gates and there’s been problems.”
Police Commissioner Jerry Nault questioned what the permit would do that drivers license wouldn’t. “Is this just another layer,” he asked?
Commissioner Anthony Urban asked where “accompanied by a parent” comes in.
Morency said the intent of the law is to allow those too young for a license to drive on the trails with a parent, not on the roads.
Theberge agreed that there has to be some control. “He’s (Morency) the professional, we have to listen to him,” he said.
“My biggest concern is to make a decision that will blow up in our face,” Morency said. “I’m looking at a trial period this fall and in the spring make it permanent.
If permits do get put in place because there is no charge, they could be available in a number of places, including the police department which is open 24/7. There would also be a fine structure, with a warning the first offense, $50 for a second offense and $100 for a third offense.