Dec 10, 2015 1:40 PM

Rochester firefighters suspend boot drives after city adopts anti-panhandling ordinance

ROCHESTER — A rule to curb panhandling is having unforeseen consequences, leading firefighters to suspend their annual "boot drives."

According to Fosters Daily Democrat, firefighters typically stand in Central Square downtown so drivers can stop in traffic to donate money by putting it in a fireman's boot.

Boot drives have had a long history in the community, with firefighters raising funds for an annual toy drive, Relay for Life and the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

The new ordinance, adopted in September, disallows anyone from distributing or receiving anything from drivers in the road.

Chris Stevens, a Rochester firefighter and president of Rochester Professional Fire Fighters Local 1451, said city firefighters have taken a break from boot drives because of the ordinance.

"We're looking at other avenues to raise funds," Stevens said. "It's our daily lives as firefighters — we try different ways to get around things."

David Lang, president of the Professional Fire Fighters of New Hampshire (PFFNH) president and a retired Hampton fire captain said he hopes the issues can be resolved. If safety is the reason for the ordinance, the boot drives should not be an issue because firefighters and other volunteers wear safety vests and take other steps so drivers can see them, he said.

Stevens said there hasn't been any official discussion yet on how to resolve the boot drive issue, but is optimistic a compromise can be reached in the future.

"I'd like them to revisit it. There may be some way of labeling boot drives as charitable events to work around the problem,” he said. "I believe that to do a boot drive, you had to get a permit beforehand anyway. We get the rule, but we wish there was a way around it."

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