BRUNSWICK, Maine — Town councilors on Monday approved a ban on the sale and use of consumer fireworks but voted down a proposed amendment that would have allowed their use in more rural areas of Brunswick.
On Jan. 1, a new state law goes into effect that will allow the use, possession and sale of consumer fireworks. But other communities in Maine, including Bangor and Portland, as well as Bath, have enacted restrictive ordinances similar to Brunswick’s, which is effective Jan. 1.
Brunswick Town Councilor Gerald Favreau proposed an amendment to the proposed ban, which would have allowed the permitted use of consumer fireworks — roughly defined as smaller fireworks that do not fly — outside of the town’s growth zone.
But such permits could have triggered complaints about noise and smoke — either of which would have required immediate response from police and fire personnel, Brunswick Fire Chief Ken Brillant wrote in a Dec. 15 memo to Town Manager Gary Brown. Brillant also worried that the fire department would be required to inspect sites before a permit was issued and to keep track of weather on the days residents planned to discharge the fireworks.
But Favreau said constituents asked him to put forth the amendment, which he said would avoid a “big brother aspect” to the ban.
Several residents on Monday spoke in favor of the amendment, although they were outnumbered by opponents of allowing any permitted use.
Jennifer Johnson, who owns Johnson’s Sporting Goods on Bath Road, said she had investigated selling fireworks, and objected to the council “deciding for thousands of people in the community” that they couldn’t do so.
Businesses are closing at Cook’s Corner, she said, noting, “ You’ve got Borders, you’ve got Fashion Bug, and there are rumors of four more. … Brunswick is not known as being a very business friendly community.”
Councilor John Perreault, who alone voted with Favreau in favor of the amendment, said, “People are going to do things whether we ban them or not. People will be lighting off fireworks illegally. … I think this town should look at every avenue of trying to increase revenue and tax dollars to help itself out.”
But a majority of councilors, and residents who spoke, opposed allowing permitted use, and favored the overall ban.
Marybeth Ford, an eye physician and surgeon, cited statistics that 9,000 Americans are injured each year by fireworks, 20 percent of which are eye injuries, and over half of which are in children age 16 or younger.
“That’s nearly 1,000 children with sight-threatening trauma,” she said, urging the council to “do the responsible thing.”
Councilor Ben Tucker, who sponsored the new ordinance, said Monday that previously proposed language that would have imposed a fine of $10,000 for anyone who “willfully” violated the ordinance — had been struck from the draft.
The new ordinance will impose a maximum penalty of $500 for the first instance of illegally selling fireworks and a maximum penalty of $400 for the first instance of illegally using fireworks.
Council chairwoman Joanne King and Councilor Margo Knight said they’d heard from residents urging them to support the ban, and Councilor Debbie Atwood said statistics about the impact of fireworks on wildlife “mirror those about children. … I believe in personal responsibility but I also believe there are beings who need watching out for.”
Councilors voted 6- 3 in favor of the ban on sale and use of consumer fireworks, with Favreau, Perreault and District 1 Councilor David Watson opposed.
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