After the North Branford Town Council breezed through its Jan. 8 agenda in about 40 minutes, the public comments then more than doubled the length of the meeting that was filled to capacity. Residents came out in force in support of two issues – school security (story to come) and concerns about ATV’s and snowmobiles on public and private property.
Three residents, including one representing the Agriculture Commission, spoke out about the “ongoing problem” of dirt bikes, snowmobiles and other all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) being used on farmland, private property and streets. The Agriculture Commission’s letter concluded by asking for the “Town Council’s involvement to help the farmers.”
The topic got heated at several points in the discussion, particularly after discussion of shots being fired by a homeowner after a snowmobile rode on his property. North Branford Police Chief Matthew Canelli was present at the meeting and Council members asked him for details.
“It’s an open case so I can’t go into details,” said Canelli. “A homeowner got frustrated, fired a couple rounds from his shotgun. He was charged with numerous felony accounts.”
After the Council listened to the concerns, several members asked for suggestions for solutions. Residents suggested involving the DEEP and having a stronger police presence. Councilor Ron Siena asked the residents if they had filed complaints with the police department, noting “if it’s your neighbor, you have to step up – if you se something, say something.” The residents who spoke said they had not filed complaints.
Canelli reiterated the importance of the public’s help: “They have helmets, we can’t ID them. Once they go off roads, we can’t pursue them. If we do and they have an accident, we’ll be held liable. When we get the call, we go to the house and if they know who the culprit is and they give us a statement, we’ll do our due diligence and make an arrest.”
Bonnie Therrien, interim town manager, and Superintendent Scott Schoonmaker both offered to help find a solution, as well.
“I’ll be glad to sit with members of Agriculture Commission, get the police involved, talk to the DEEP, but it will never be 100 percent foolproof,” said Therrien.
Schoonmaker said that while he’s not a resident of the town, the ATV use affects school grounds, too. He also acknowledged the difficulty the police department faces as far as catching the riders.
“I don’t think students are being malicious – I think they’re just trying to have fun,” he said. “If we could get the [Agriculture] Commission together with the students and the students could hear the frustration from the farmers – maybe it’s worth trying.”