Ellsworth approves use, sale of fireworks

Posted April 16, 2012, at 10:04 p.m.

ELLSWORTH, Maine — City officials voted Monday to approve the use and sale of consumer fireworks, although it will likely be at least two months before any fireworks shops open in Ellsworth.

Members of the City Council unanimously approved a local ordinance that largely mirrors the new state law legalizing the use, possession and sale of certain types of consumer fireworks in Maine. Ellsworth officials exercised the local discretion allowed under state law, however, by imposing a few extra restrictions and requirements for users and vendors.

For instance, Ellsworth’s new ordinance prohibits the use of fireworks on days with a high risk of wildfires, as indicated by a Class 4 or Class 5 fire risk designation for the area by the Maine Forest Service.

The city also will require fireworks vendors to pay a $500 licensing fee and to obtain the license from the city before receiving one from the state, which Ellsworth Fire Chief Richard Tupper said would help ensure the city’s interests and concerns are addressed.

The city will require a local permit for any commercial fireworks displays, which was not previously required. Additionally, indoor fireworks or pyrotechnic displays are prohibited under the ordinance. And city officials will require vendors to make available to buyers a list of towns in Maine where fireworks are prohibited or restricted. That list also must be posted at the checkout.

The city’s fireworks policy is effectively immediately, ending a 180-day moratorium enacted in November to allow Tupper and others to develop a local ordinance. Ellsworth residents should not expect to see fireworks shops pop up in the coming weeks, however.

The state fire marshal’s office has 60 days under state law to review local ordinances, meaning the city could be unable to issue a permit until mid-June. But City Clerk Heidi-Noel Grindle said potential vendors can begin the permit application process immediately.

City Manager Michelle Beal said Monday that although the city has received inquiries from potential vendors, she was not aware of any specific proposals.

Under state law, any fireworks businesses must be located in free-standing buildings rather than the temporary roadside tents found in some states. Additionally, Maine’s law prohibits other retailers such as convenience stores or big-box stores from selling fireworks.

Some of the more popular types of fireworks, such as “bottle rockets” and all aerial fireworks, remain illegal in Maine.

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