HAVERHILL — Everyone agrees it’s for a good cause.
But city councilors said firefighters have been violating rules, inconveniencing drivers and creating dangerous traffic conditions by stopping motorists to solicit donations during their annual Labor Day fundraising campaign for the Muscular Dystrophy Association.
The council recently declined to give the firefighters a tag day license to collect donations Aug. 30 on some of the city’s busiest areas — Main Street at Rosemont Street and River Street at Lowell Avenue.
“Last year, there were on-duty firefighters out in the middle of the street stopping traffic and clogging major roads for miles in all directions,” said Councilor William Ryan, who led the effort to block approval of the license until the firefighters come to a meeting to discuss the council’s concerns.
“It’s a great cause and I agree having toll booths with firefighters in uniform in the middle of street stopping traffic is a great way to raise money,” Ryan said. “But I don’t think this is something we should be doing or allowing. ... Families who are trying to leave the city on vacation are basically being subjected to a toll. Some cars are going in the breakdown lane to get by. We could have a tragedy if someone isn’t paying attention.”
Councilors said stopping traffic to solicit donations is also illegal.
“We passed an ordinance to keep the firefighters out of the of middle of the street, but it’s being ignored,” Ryan said. “Last year, I called the mayor and asked him to call the police chief and put an end to it, but nothing was done and it went on for days.”
Mayor James Fiorentini did not return a message seeking his comment. Public Safety Commissioner Alan DeNaro, who is in charge of both the police and fire departments, declined comment.