Published Date Written by Barbara Tetreault
BERLIN – The city council is moving forward with a proposed ordinance that would allow OHRVs to ride on city streets to access the OHRV connector trail or to access local businesses.
Developed by the police department and the local OHRV committee, the ordinance had its first reading Monday night. A public hearing will be held at the council's Feb. 17 meeting before the ordinance comes up for final approval.
Police Chief Peter Morency and Deputy Chief Brian Valerino discussed the ordinance with the council at the Jan. 27 work session.
The goal is to enhance Berlin's reputation as OHRV friendly community and to promote local businesses. Streets are open to OHRV riders for trail and business access only. Valerino said OHRV riders cannot just drive around on city streets.
"We don't want anyone terrorizing the neighborhoods," he said.
OHRV use will be prohibited between the hours of 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. unless authorized by the city council for special events. OHRVs must have working head and taillights and can not operate on streets with a speed limit over 30 mph. Operators must have a driver's license – underage drivers must be accompanied by a licensed adult.
Morency noted that his department has moved cautiously on opening up city streets to additional OHRV use. He said the department has researched how other communities have handled OHRVs and spoken to state and Fish and Game officials.
Valerino pointed out the ordinance contains a one-year sunset clause. He said at the end of a year, the city and department will have to review the ordinance and decide to renew it.
Mayor Paul Grenier said he believes the public supports the proposal. He estimated 98 percent of OHRV riders will follow the rules and act responsibly. He asked about penalties for violators, especially repeat offenders.
Under the ordinance, violators will be subject to a $100 for the first offense, $250 fine for the second offense, and $500 for a third offense. All violations are also subject to a loss of OHRV operating privileges on city streets.
Speeding and DWI offenses would be treated the same as regular motor vehicle violations.
Grenier and Councilor Peter Higbee both said they liked the sunset clause because it will give the city an opportunity to see how the ordinance has worked.