May 24, 2018
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Brewer residents upset about fireworks ask council to change rules

By Nok-Noi Ricker, BDN Staff

BREWER, Maine — Two residents on Willow Way voiced their concerns about fireworks — one saying they are dangerous and should be outlawed and the other stressing the need for earlier time restrictions.

Brian Geaghan told city councilors that in his opinion fireworks “are not safe under any conditions” and questioned whether they did any research before approving a fireworks ordinance in November.

“I’ve done a little homework on fireworks. What I found when I talked to most of you is that you haven’t done your homework,” he said.

Military veterans who served in Afghanistan, grandmothers with shivering small dogs and parents with babies should not have to listen to fireworks being shot off next door, said Geaghan, who also asked if councilors have paid attention to firework injuries and fires that have recently made headlines in Maine.

On Jan. 1, the law banning fireworks in the state was lifted. Fireworks can only be fired from someone’s own property or if the property owner provides written permission.

Joseph Ferris and Mayor Jerry Goss took exception to Geaghan’s comments.

“I do take umbrage from the suggestion that I did no homework,” Ferris said. “We were looking at regulations that said this wasn’t permitted and that wasn’t permitted” and based the local ordinance on those rules.

In the early version of the state rules, “bottle rockets weren’t permitted,” Ferris said.

That changed when the state fire marshal issued a definition by rule “which allows for consumer fireworks, such a bottle rockets, spinners, etcetera … to be shot off,” explained Police Chief Perry Antone.

“Back when we discussed this, the fire marshal hadn’t written the rules,” he said. “Initially, they said they weren’t allowed because they were waiting for a definition by rule.”

When discussing the local rules last fall, “councilors did an extraordinary amount of homework” and also have been paying attention to recent news regarding them, Goss said.

One part of the ordinance also stated councilors could review the ordinance after a year to see if it needed to be modified, the mayor said.

Councilor Larry Doughty said he brought forward the discussion item because he’s hearing residents want to reduce the 10 p.m. curfew on shooting off fireworks.

Some residents have reported fireworks being discharged in the middle of the night, he said.

Joan Richert, who is a neighbor of Geaghan, said she wished fireworks weren’t allowed in town but since they are, she wants the council to drop the curfew to 9 p.m.

“Why should anyone be making that kind of racket after 9 o’clock?” she asked.

The fire department has not responded to any calls, Fire Chief Gary Parent said, and “since the law was passed, we’ve had 17 complaints total that have been reported to us,” Antone said. “Eleven of them were investigated and deemed legal under the law.”

Other calls included reports of people throwing lit fireworks onto the street and then driving away, he said. The last complaint was made on July 8, Antone said.

City attorney Joel Dearborn was asked to review the state rules and make a presentation to the city council in the coming months.

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