SOUTHWEST HARBOR — Despite concerns that a fireworks ordinance for the town essentially would be unenforceable, selectmen on Tuesday voted to put the proposal before voters at the May 3 town elections.
Selectmen made the decision in a 3-2 vote with Lydia Goetze, Chairman George Jellison and Tom Benson voting yes. Dan Norwood and Dave Minctons cast the opposing votes.
In December, two residents came to selectmen with a request that an ordinance regulating the use of consumer fireworks go before voters. Selectmen in January agreed to put the matter on the town meeting warrant but first wanted to have the town attorney approve the draft of the proposed ordinance. That draft is the one heading to voters.
One of the sticking points during discussion in January was that the draft, if enacted, would make possession of fireworks, not just their use, a violation.
Consumer fireworks and their use are legal in Maine. Municipalities can regulate their use through local ordinance.
During discussion Tuesday, Jellison said he has spoken with law enforcement officers in other towns, and they all agree that a fireworks ordinance would be a “burden for a small police department.” For one thing, he said, the state will not prosecute violations of local ordinances. That means the town would incur additional expenses in taking an offender to court, he said.
“I agree, but I do feel it needs to be on the ballot, and we need to be very clear about why we don’t support it,” she said.
As proposed, the ordinance would prohibit the use of consumer fireworks unless the person obtains a fireworks display permit from the town or state. Enforcement would fall to the Southwest Harbor Police Department or other agents as appointed by the town. Violators would face a $100 fine.