After crowded battle, Concord City Council tables BearCat matter
CONCORD — An armored vehicle designed to survive the most extreme situations had to weather the Concord City Council as well as a throng of residents Monday night opposing a proposal to bring a BearCat G3 rescue vehicle to the city.
But after long debate, no decision was made on accepting a $258,000 Department of Homeland Security grant for the BearCat.
By council rule, an 11 p.m. curfew on council action meant the issue was tabled until a recessed meeting convenes on Monday, Aug. 19.
The council chambers on Green Street was standing-room-only for the 7 p.m. meeting, packed with opponents. People also rallied outside, holding signs that read “MORE MAYBERRY — LESS FALLUJA” and “THANKS, BUT NO TANKS.”
Police Chief John Duval fielded questions from council members for about 20 minutes, explaining the BearCat is armored, not armed, and is a means to protect officers and medical personnel while getting them in and out during a terrorist attack, riot or shooting incident.
“The vehicle allows police officers to get to a place and perform their task in exceptional situations and do so in as much safety as can be expected,” Duval told the council.
Once Duval was finished, the council prepared for the public comment section just after 8 p.m. More than 30 people had signed up and one opponent said about 150 people were also outside. Mayor Jim Bouley was not present. The announcement that he was out of the country drew snickers from the crowd.
Opposition to the BearCat mounted when the wording on the grant application became public.
“Groups such as the Sovereign Citizens, Free Staters and Occupy New Hampshire are active and present daily challenges,” the application stated. In addition to organized groups, it cited “several homegrown clusters that are anti-government and pose problems for law enforcement agencies.”
Duval later agreed to re-word the application, but the damage was done. Monday night, the words “Live Free or Die” could be seen on T-shirts and signs.
The police department applied for the grant on behalf of the Central New Hampshire Special Operations Unit, which includes 20 local communities, Merrimack County Sheriff’s Office and Plymouth State University.
Duval made a presentation before the council showing photos of the current armored vehicle, which is a 1981 Air Force surplus “Peacekeeper.”
Duval said said the Peacekeeper vehicle is outdated and a cost burden for maintenance.