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Pittsfield's rules on snowmobiles now match the state's rules. Here's what that could mean for riders

After a white Christmas, brace for bitter cold: Subzero temps, wind chill as low as -25 (copy)

A man takes his snowmobile out on Goodrich Street in Pittsfield in December 2017. The Pittsfield City Council voted 10-1 on Tuesday night to align the city's rules around snowmobiling with state laws.

PITTSFIELD — Complaints of late-night snowmobile riders cruising up and down residential streets have gone unanswered by Pittsfield Police, who say city ordinances have left a loophole for riders to drive on through.

That’s according to several city councilors who discussed the issue Tuesday night, during a meeting. Ward 7 Councilor Anthony Maffuccio proposed language to close that loophole, igniting concern among a passionate community of snowmobilers. They claim that their access to trails around the city would be cut off if councilors agreed to Maffucio’s changes.

For many in the region’s snowmobiling community, the proposed ordinance was seen “as a definite threat to snowmobiling historic trails in the Pittsfield area,” Randy Toth, a member of the Berkshire Snow Seekers, told the council.

After a strong showing by the snowmobilers, and a late-made compromise on language changes between Maffuccio and a local snowmobiling club — a middle ground between the council and snowmobilers was found. The city council voted 10-1 to align Pittsfield’s rules around snowmobiling with state laws.

Under Pittsfield’s updated ordinance, and existing state laws, snowmobilers can’t ride within 150 feet of a residential zone or occupied home unless the rider or their snowmobile organization has the resident’s permission.

Whether anything will change in the police’s enforcement of the new ordinance remains an open question for much of the council.

Ward 4 Councilor Patrick Kavey said that, in a recent presentation to the incoming city councilors, Pittsfield Police Chief Michael Wynn told the councilors-elect that his department currently has 87 officers. Kavey said that Wynn reported that a city of Pittsfield’s size needs about 120 officers to work effectively.

“They’re busy with other issues in the city, aside from enforcing people on their snowmobiles,” Kavey said. “I’m assuming they don’t have the capacity to enforce this either way.”

There were questions from several councilors about whether it was wise to pass an ordinance they knew would be difficult for city police to enforce, but Maffuccio said the ordinance change was about giving police the ability to step in more often.

“Police are called and they go to an area and they tell residents that they can’t do nothing because the ordinance only addresses recreational vehicles such as dirt bikes and ATVs,” Maffuccio said. “This is a protection mechanism, and now police will see it’s on our books also.”

At large Councilor Earl Persip III reminded the council that the new ordinance was supported by snowmobilers, would give residents a potential for relief and would help with known problem spots.

“We have enforcement issues with a lot of things. Are we just not going to have ordinances because we can’t enforce them at times?” Persip said. “Yes, we’re going to struggle to enforce this, but there will be one or two cases that can be enforced.

“If we can help that one resident, I don’t see why we’re drawing this out.”

Meg Britton-Mehlisch can be reached at mbritton@berkshireeagle.com or 413-496-6149.

Pittsfield Reporter

Meg Britton-Mehlisch is the Pittsfield reporter for The Berkshire Eagle. Born and raised in Kansas City, Missouri, she previously worked at the Prior Lake American and its sister publications under the Southwest News Media umbrella in Savage, Minnesota.

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