Fireworks rule push reignites

SOUTHWEST HARBOR — Selectmen on Tuesday agreed to consider a fireworks ordinance after two residents presented the board with a draft of a proposed ordinance. Those residents are requesting the issue go before voters at the May town meeting.

This was the second time Trudy Bickford and Marsha Pilz approached selectmen about their concerns about the safety of allowing the use of commercial fireworks in the town. This time, they brought a draft of what they consider a reasonable ordinance to regulate the use of fireworks in the town.

The draft calls for fireworks permits to be issued by the town that would allow for fireworks to be used between the 5 p.m. and 10 p.m. “Such permits should be granted on a similar basis to those for open burning and should take into account both fire safety conditions and the rights of abutting landowners to the quiet enjoyment of their property.”

Selectmen noted that the draft, as written, would not be legally binding.

“I don’t think this is enforceable,” Chairman George Jellison said.

Jellison pointed out selectmen had considered the need for a fireworks ordinance previously. Commercial fireworks became legal in Maine in January 2012. During those deliberations, which included input from Dave Chapais and Sam Chisholm, who respectively were the town’s police and fire chiefs at the time, it was decided that the state law on commercial fireworks was adequate, Jellison said.

“I’m not ready to change my mind on that,” Jellison told Bickford and Pilz.

The women were not satisfied with the response.

“It sounds like you don’t want us to vote this in,” Bickford said. If selectmen would not put the question on the town meeting warrant, she added, they would begin collecting signatures for a petition to put the matter before voters.

The town’s current police and fire chiefs were at the meeting, and selectmen asked for their opinion.

The state law is “adequate to cover the town of Southwest Harbor,” said police Chief Alan Brown.

Brown said records show about 20 fireworks complaints during 2014 and 2015. But in some instances, it is unclear whether the complaints were gunshots or other sources of noise.

“How many were actually fireworks complaints, I’m not sure,” Brown said.

Fire Chief Jack Martel said he couldn’t recall any fires caused by fireworks.

Town Manager Don Lagrange questioned whether a permit system would be workable and said the town should either stay with the state law or prohibit fireworks entirely.

Selectmen Lydia Goetze and Dan Norwood said they would consider putting a fireworks ordinance before voters, but only if it was enforceable.

Goetze’s motion to take up the matter at the next selectmen’s meeting carried 4-1, with Dave Minctons casting the opposing vote. Goetze is to draft a legally binding version of an ordinance for discussion.

Mark Good

Mark Good

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Mark Good

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