BELFAST, Maine — With little fanfare, Belfast has joined the ranks of the Maine communities that have restricted the use of fireworks.
Councilors unanimously voted during a regular city council meeting to ban the sale and use of fireworks in Belfast. Although a public hearing on the matter was held at the beginning of the meeting, no one spoke, and city councilors likewise did not discuss the amendment to the city’s ordinance code before voting.
Earlier this year, Gov. Paul LePage signed into law a bill legalizing the sale and use of certain consumer fireworks beginning Jan. 1. But state officials, including the Maine State Fire Marshal’s Office, still are developing rules and regulations stipulating precisely how fireworks can be sold and which fireworks will become legal and which will remain outlawed.
The law also allows towns and cities to impose their own fireworks rules, possibly including prohibiting them altogether.
Other municipalities that have banned fireworks include Bangor, Portland, Lewiston and Augusta.
In other business, councilors heard a pessimistic financial report from RSU 20 Superintendent Bruce Mailloux.
“We have approximately $2.2 million less in revenue than we had last year,” he said. “I’d like to bring you some Christmas cheer and good news, but it’s going to be a tough year for [school finances].”
Mailloux, who has announced that he will be retiring in June, said that he believes there are more classrooms than necessary in the nine-town district.
“We have a declining school population. Should we be looking to consolidation? I say, yes, we should. It’s not very popular, because everybody loves schools,” he said.
Councilor Eric Sanders asked if Maine’s 2008 school consolidation law has saved the district as much money as initially had been forecast. At that time, two school districts, the former SAD 34 and the former SAD 56, combined to form the current configuration. Now, RSU 20 educates the students of Belfast, Belmont, Frankfort, Morrill, Northport, Searsmont, Searsport, Stockton Springs and Swanville.
Mailloux told him that the unified district saved $430,000 during the first year, because of having just one central office.
Councilor Marina DeLune made an impassioned plea for the importance of funding a good education for the city’s children.
“We talk about economic development here a lot,” she said. “But there’s no more important issue than having well-educated students. It is the most important economic development issue.”
Additionally, councilors unanimously voted to hire a consultant to evaluate the possible purchase of the Goose River hydroelectric dam facilities.
Belfast will pay $6,000 to Alfred Nash of Renewable Power Consulting of Palmyra to conduct an independent review and feasibility study of the project.
The city’s option to purchase the dam will expire on March 6, 2012.