Vehicle visibility may increase

NASHUA – City cars and trucks would be more visible on the roadways under a plan backed by an aldermanic committee to require that city seals and department names be attached to the vehicles.

Police and fire vehicles would be largely exempt, despite some objections from the proposal’s author.

The legislation is one of four ordinances under consideration by the Board of Aldermen in the wake of Mayor Bernie Streeter being charged two months ago with leaving the scene of an accident when he was at the wheel of a city-leased car.

Alderman-at-Large David Deane exchanged heated words with Fire Chief Roger Hatfield at a meeting of the Personnel/Administrative Affairs Committee about putting seals on four vehicles used by fire executives.

Hatfield said the department has magnetic facsimiles of Nashua Fire Rescue’s arm patch that make more sense than using the city seal. But he objected to making them permanent fixtures, as the proposal mandated.

He said the department at times uses the vehicles for investigations with the Police Department, and identification on the vehicles would not be helpful.

When Deane asked why the identification was not on a fire department vehicle parked at City Hall for the Monday meeting, Hatfield said he often forgets to attach the seal.

As it was written, the proposal exempted police vehicles, and the committee modified it to exempt fire department vehicles as well.

In the end, Hatfield said he and the fire commissioners would discuss having a seal on the vehicles, except during the few times they are needed for investigations. The vehicles are three Ford Explorer sport utility vehicles and a Crown Victoria sedan.

In all, the aldermanic committee considered four proposals related to the use of city vehicles.

The other three come from Ward 3 Alderman Kevin Gage and Alderman-at-Large Paula Johnson, who have submitted legislation that would restrict use of city vehicles outside of business hours.

Johnson has submitted two proposals, the more stringent of which would bar any city employee from taking home a city vehicle for any reason, while Gage would exempt some high-ranking city officials from the ban.

A few aldermen on the committee objected to all of the ideas.

Alderman-at-Large David Rootovich called them “reactionary legislation” to an “indiscretion” on the part of Streeter.

Streeter is accused of leaving the scene of a minor collision in October involving the 2002 Ford Crown Victoria the city leased for his office and a Manchester cab.

After investigating, police charged Streeter with conduct after an accident, a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail. He is scheduled to appear in Manchester District Court for a pretrial conference Dec. 30.

Manchester police charge Streeter had words with the cabbie, but left without identifying himself or providing insurance information. The collision took place on a Saturday morning, and Streeter was in Manchester to attend the circus, according to the police report.

The committee decided to hold the three measures from Gage and Johnson, giving them an opportunity to write a compromise on their related legislation.

On a voice vote, the committee approved the measure to require city seals and department names on vehicles, and the full Board of Aldermen will consider it at the board’s meeting next week. The measure would require a 9-inch city seal and a department’s name to be placed on doors on both sides of city vehicles.

Meanwhile, Nashua Fire Rescue has already made changes to its own policy covering city cars, said the fire chief.

Hatfield said a new policy forbids four division superintendents from taking home city vehicles.

The department started discussing the change 18 months ago as it revised its response procedures for the department’s superintendents and assistants. The change is not related to the ongoing discussion revolving around city vehicles and Streeter, Hatfield said.