Policing Expanded ATV Population Presents New Issues for Gorham

June 20, 2013
By Gail Scott

Berlin Daily Sun

GORHAM—At their regular Monday meeting, Gorham selectmen considered the impact of increasing ATV use in the town.  Whether or not the town roads are opened up to ATV use, Police Chief P.J. Cyr told selectmen that already some of the OHRV complaints the department has received "would warrant patrols."

However, the police do not own an OHRV. "In the past, we have authorized personal use OHRVs for patrols, but that opens us up to liability," said Cyr.  Selectman Chairman Paul Robitaille noted that he hears ATVS late at night "coming up and down the trail—at one o'clock in the morning," when a half hour after sunset the trails are supposed to be closed until a half hour before sunrise.

Cyr said that training officers for OHRV patrols could be managed within this year's budget. Selectman Bill Jackson said that such training is absolutely necessary, but the problem is "access to the trails." He asked if any of the OHRV dealers in town would be open to providing demo models to assist the town.

Cyr said that he had not spoken to any of them about the problem, but that some aspects of law enforcement could be done without an OHRV. "A concern is: are they abiding by speed limits on the straight-aways? We can cover that issue with hand held radars and with cruisers on the Lancaster Road," he said.
Jackson said he was concerned about accidents or something happening on the trails.

Cyr agreed that "as the OHRV initiative moves forward, the Gorham Police Department will have to have the resources to respond to emergency calls." Another question, said Jackson, would these patrols be in addition to regular police work, would they involve overtime, is there money to do that? "It is done at the officers' overtime rate," said Cyr. "The hours are funded through a special detail line item."
The hourly rate would be $45.

Jackson asked if there would also be compensation for the use of a personal OHRV, covering the cost of fuel, wear and tear, and a mileage rate. Cyr said that in the past those costs "were not a concern for officers."

Jackson asked if the Gorham OHRV patrols would replace those of New Hampshire Fish and Game.  Cyr responded that the patrols are in addition to Fish and Game activities. The discussion led to the selectmen signing a request for an OHRV Enforcement grant from NH Fish and Game of $1,080. Cyr noted that the department has been keeping statistics on OHRV complaints that he could make available for selectmen.

In other business, selectmen gave Recreation Director Jeff Stewart the go ahead to find out more about a replacement for the Gorham Common fountain—the design to include an attractive water fountain and a flower-filled surround sufficient to keep people out of the water.

Selectmen also took up three requests for abatement. After considerable discussion, they decided that all needed more information, particularly from on-site review by KRT, the assessing agency.

Jackson suggested that it might be useful for two of the owners, who were present for the discussion, to get an outside appraisal to help support their requests for abatement.

In her report, Town Manager Robin Frost said that the office had still not found the plans for the multi-modal trail. The trail was completed when the town offices were still in trailers at the Fire Station and in the move back to the town hall, the plans seem to have been stowed so discretely that they haven't been found yet.

Jackson said he would be willing to look through the boxes "one more time." He also noted "there is material that moved from the trailers to here but is still in the moving boxes." He suggested opening each box, going through it quickly and deciding what material the town no longer needs to retain.

Frost noted that the Welcome to Gorham sign will be moved to the bottom of Gorham Hill, just past the truck ramp, either this or next week. Gorham Public Works is doing the work, she said.

Selectmen briefly met in non-public session before closing the meeting and moving to the Medallion Theatre for the hearing on allowing ATVs to use public roads.

 

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