Keene officials say they will buy armored vehicle
KEENE — The LENCO BearCat Special Missions armored vehicle is coming to Keene, city councilors told a gathering of citizens wearing ';Thanks but No Tanks'; T-shirts at Thursday night's meeting.
Councilors provoked an outcry in December when they accepted a $285,933 Homeland Security grant to buy the armored vehicle without a public hearing.
Residents rallied, calling the purchase a waste of federal tax dollars; some said it would militarize the city's police force.
';The bottom line is this is not about public safety,'; Councilor Terry Clark said Thursday. ';This vehicle is not going to save one life.';
Clark was the sole vote against accepting the grant in December, and it was at his request that a public hearing on the matter was held Feb. 9.
On Thursday, Clark moved to take a vote to rescind the acceptance of the grant. Four councilors voted for his motion to reconsider; nine voted against it.
Councilor Bettina Chadbourne agreed with Clark, and voted to reconsider.
';I feel it feeds fear,'; she said of the BearCat. ';I just don't think we have the level of crime as L.A., New York, or Miami.';
Councilor Janis Manwaring said as a therapist, she considers it a dangerous time. Many people are stressed out, out of work and homeless.
';I have a lot of people asking me why a middle-schooler in Walpole would take a gun to school and shoot it,'; Janis said, referring to a student who shot himself in the head in the school cafeteria last month.
Councilor P. Dale Pregent said the vehicle would be valuable to the city.
';Yes, we are little Keene, New Hampshire, but we are not exempt from disasters,'; he said.
After the vote, frustrated residents — many carrying signs protesting the BearCat's purchase — filed out of the room.