The Derry Town Council voted 5-2 to approve accepting a grant from the New Hampshire Highway Safety Agency for seat belt enforcement.
Derry Police Capt. Vern Thomas represented Chief Ed Garone at the March 18 meeting, in which he presented specifics of the grant.
The $2,574 grant would allow Derry to send out officers for 36 hours of patrols, of six-hour shifts, in which the officers concentrate on seat belt and child restraint enforcement.
Thomas said the grant would make Derry part of a larger initiative, “Join the New Hampshire Clique,” a state-wide enforcement effort to be held May 12 to 26.
All salary and roll-up costs are reimbursed by the New Hampshire Highway Safety Agency, Thomas said.
Thomas said, “Every year a new batch of people get their drivers’ licenses.” They need to be reminded of safe seat belt use, Thomas said, observing that at least one of the passengers in Derry’s New Year’s Eve fatal accident was not wearing a seat belt.
The grant would provide for dedicated six-hour patrols for those two weeks, Thomas said.
Council Chair Mark Osborne asked if the grant needed a public hearing. Acting Town Administrator Larry Budreau said hearings were only required for amounts over $5,000.
Councilor David Fischer said, “It looks like this grant would promote safety in the community. Was it intended specifically for prom time?”
Thomas said he couldn’t speak to the intent, but said the initiative was held every year at this time.
Councilor Joshua Bourdon asked how many other towns are participating, and Thomas said, “Sixteen.”
“It is an important issue,” Councilor Phyllis Katsakiores said.
“I am alive,” Councilor Tom Cardon said, “because I wore a seat belt a few years ago.”
Osborne asked Thomas what the officers in the initiative would be doing “that they’re not already doing.”
Thomas responded, “They will take a dedicated position, a stationary position” at places like Hood Commons and Pinkerton Academy. They would not have to respond to other calls, Thomas said, noting, “This department receives between 29,000 to 30,000 calls a year. That moves us around quite a bit.”
Osborne asked if the effort would generate contested citations that would be prosecuted at the town’s expense.
Thomas said the intent was more public awareness and education. At a similar event in August, with 30 car stops, warnings outnumbered citations 2 to 1, he said.
“We only prosecute when they contest it,” Thomas said.
The Council voted 5-2 to allow Acting Town Administrator Larry Budreau to apply for and accept the grant. Fisher, Bourdon, Katsakiores, Cardon and Michael Fairbanks voted in the affirmative, with Osborne and Al Dimmock voting in the negative.