Brunswick puts off fireworks ban vote
After extensive public comment on a proposed ordinance that would ban fireworks, the Town Council voted unanimously Monday to delay a vote on the item until its Dec. 19 meeting.
The council also tabled a proposal by District 5 Councilor Gerald Favreau to add a permitting process to the ordinance, which he described as being similar to a burn permit.
That addition to the ordinance was not included with the Town Council agenda posted last Wednesday but was sent out by email early Monday.
Residents and public safety officials joined the conversation Monday night as to what is the best approach Brunswick should take to regulate personal use or sale of fireworks in town.
On Jan. 1, a new state law allowing the use and sale of consumer fireworks will take effect. As part of that law, municipalities were granted the ability to enact restric- tions as some larger cities such as Augusta, Bangor and Portland have done, said District 2 Councilor Ben Tucker, who sponsored the ordinance.
Tucker said that a ban would be consistent with the status quo and that allowing fireworks could lead to more fires and fireworks- related accidents.
According to statistics Tucker said he found in legislative testimony from the Maine state fire marshal, neighboring New Hampshire, which allows fireworks, had three times as many fires related to fireworks as Maine between 2007 and 2009.
Fire Chief Ken Brillant said that allowing fireworks in town would “increase the potential for injuries” and that the town should pursue an outright ban or no ban. A permitting process that would conditionally allow fireworks in some areas of town would create problems for enforcement, Brillant said.
“My suggestion is that you go one way or the other,” Brillant said.
Resident Hunter Johnson, who helped Favreau draft the amendment that would allow municipal government to issue fireworks permits for use outside the town’s growth zone, said he took issue with the idea that residents could not use fireworks responsibly.
“I’d like to have a chance to prove that we can behave ourselves and use fireworks appropriately and not be faced with a fine on top of the expense of the fireworks,” Johnson said. “I think this is a solution in search of a problem.”
Resident Randy Dumont said that the town would lose an economic opportunity with a ban.
“By (banning fireworks), you’ve squashed economic development,” Dumont said.
Dumont said the move would prevent someone like himself from having an opportunity to get into the business of selling fireworks.
Police Chief Richard Rizzo characterized the ban as a public safety issue.
“If we allow it, there will be some injuries and changes to the quality of life that people are probably not going to like,” Rizzo said.
Supporters of the ban said the issue is one of public safety.
Sue O’Dell, who lives on Maine Street, said she has lived in other towns where fireworks are allowed and that on holidays like the Fourth of July, the air fills with the sounds of fireworks and sirens.
“The (Centers for Disease Control) has many reports available about the property damage,” O’Dell said. “ Fires resulted in $ 42 million in direct property damage in 2008, and this is a separate issue beyond who is injured.”
According to the CDC website, the same study found in 2008 that 7,000 total cases of fireworks- related injuries were treated in emergency rooms across the country.
Councilors ultimately expressed concerns about the amount of discussion and last-minute changes proposed to the ordinance Monday, including Tucker’s suggestion that the portion of the ordinance prohibiting possession of fireworks with the intent to use or sell could be scratched.
The council will consider the fireworks ban again at its Dec. 19 meeting. That will be the last scheduled Town Council meeting before the state law allowing the use and sale of consumer fireworks takes effect.