Fireworks regs headed to vote



SOUTHWEST HARBOR — Whether or not to ban the use of consumer fireworks within the town will be up to voters at the annual town meeting in May.

Selectmen on Tuesday voted 3-2 to put a fireworks ordinance on the warrant for the town meeting. Those voting in favor were Lydia Goetze, Tom Benson and Dan Norwood. Board Chairman George Jellison and David Minctons cast the opposing votes.

Residents Trudy Bickford and Marsha Pilz approached selectmen last month about putting a fireworks ordinance before voters. Chief among the women’s concerns was the possibility that a fire could result from improper use of fireworks. After considerable discussion, Goetze volunteered to put together a draft of an ordinance for discussion at the meeting Tuesday.

Goetze said the draft she provided is a slightly modified version of the ordinance adopted in the neighboring town of Mount Desert. Basically, the only difference is that “Southwest Harbor” has been substituted for “Mount Desert” where appropriate, she added.

Goetze advocated for putting the issue before voters.

“I think we have an obligation to put this on the ballot,” she said. Selectmen, she added, do not have to make a recommendation of whether the ordinance should pass or not.

If selectmen fail to do so, Goetze continued, a citizen’s initiative petition to force the issue to a vote most likely would be mounted by proponents of an ordinance.

Bickford and Pilz were at the meeting along with several other supporters of a fireworks ban. Many spoke of the noise from fireworks, saying the outbursts disrupted their sleep and frightened their pets.

“It’s a problem. It’s a real quality of life issue,” said Margery Russakoff.

Jellison said he had problems with the ordinance making possession of fireworks an offense. Consumer fireworks in Maine are legal, and the fact someone has them in their possession in Southwest Harbor doesn’t mean the fireworks will be used in town, he argued.

Goetze offered to amend the draft to eliminate references to possession. It is the amended version that is headed to the town meeting.

As proposed, the ordinance would prohibit use of consumer fireworks in the town unless the person proposing to do so obtains a permit either from the town or the state as required under state law regarding fireworks. The requirements put a permit beyond the reach of the average person and appear to apply to commercial firework displays.

The law requires 20 days advance notice of setting off fireworks, that the person responsible produce a certificate of liability insurance in the amount of $1 million, and that a site plan be submitted showing the location of structures, members of the audience and the area in which the fireworks are to fall.

Violators would face fines of $100 to $2,500 for each offense. The town could recover all costs of the enforcement effort including reasonable legal fees.

New cruisers

Police Chief Alan Brown was at the meeting with bids for a new vehicle for his department. He got more than he expected. After consideration, selectmen voted 5-0 to purchase two new police cruisers.

Town Manager Don Lagrange suggested buying two cruisers instead of one, stating that both vehicles now in use, a 2013 Dodge Charger and a 2011 Chevrolet pickup, have mechanical issues. Repairs in the past year alone have cost the town between $6,000 and $7,000, he said.

“I don’t think the Charger was a good vehicle for the department, and the truck was a lemon,” Lagrange said in making his recommendation.

Two 2016 Ford Utility Police Interceptors, which are SUVs, are to be purchased from Darling’s Bangor Ford, one of two bidders for the cruiser purchase. Darling’s bid $27,648 for one vehicle and offered $11,500 in trade-in allowance for the pickup and $9,500 for the Dodge, which reduced the price to $6,648. Add $27,648 for the second vehicle, and the cost for both is just shy of $34,300. The money is to come from a capital improvement program fund that now totals $41,400.

Mark Good

Mark Good

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Mark Good

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