Newport residents voice concerns over fireworks use

Posted Aug. 15, 2012, at 9:38 p.m.

NEWPORT, Maine — Noise complaints regarding fireworks prompted a public hearing in front of Newport’s Board of Selectmen on Wednesday night, where several residents voiced their experiences and concerns.

“I’ve been woke up at 1 o’clock, 1:30 in the morning to people setting off fireworks, and that’s just wrong for a bunch of reasons,” said resident Edward McLaughlin. “I think there needs to be some parameters put on this as to when people can use them.”

Another resident said some people shoot off fireworks nightly.

“My wife and I have been listening to somebody shoot off fireworks every night, five to seven nights a week from an hour and a half to three hours a night and seven hours in a row on Saturdays and Sundays. It’s crap,” said another resident.

Only Cedric O’Donnell, who owns Newport Fireworks along Route 7 in Newport, spoke against making an ordinance. He recommended the board revisit the issue in six months.

“I would assume this year would be the most active in fireworks use everywhere,” said O’Donnell. “More than likely, next year you’ll find very few displays outside of New Years, Christmas and Fourth of July. I would urge the board to not rush to judgment on such a thing. There’s no way in saying this is the norm quite yet.”

Newport Police Chief Leonard Macdaid said the noise complaints haven’t been numerous, but residents at the meeting admitted to not calling police to report them.

“I don’t think the numbers reflect what’s going on,” said Macdaid, who added that he wanted some more restrictions placed on fireworks use.

Newport Town Manager Jim Ricker said he had 47 signatures from residents who wanted to prohibit fireworks.

Macdaid cited two of the most extreme incidents so far in town.

“We had one on Main Street, where they were shooting them off and ended up damaging a lady’s car who was driving by. Luckily the window wasn’t open or it would’ve been a lot worse,” he said. “There were [also] two incidents where [people] were throwing [fireworks] at cars.”

Many of the acts cited at the meeting were already illegal according to state law.

“Other than July 4 and Dec. 31, the time of day when fireworks can be fired is between 9 a.m. and 10 p.m., unless otherwise regulated by local ordinance,” said acting Fire Marshal Joe Thomas last month. Fireworks also must be fired on a person’s own property or the person must have written permission from the homeowner and be at least 21 years old.

Macdaid encouraged residents to call police to complain, especially for after-hours fireworks. He said people can call the Penobscot County’s regional dispatch center to reach a Newport officer, and then they can investigate.

“Good people always feel like they’re bothering us. They don’t want to call at 2 in the morning. We work 2 in the morning, you’re not bothering us,” said Macdaid. “If you feel there’s a problem, we’d rather come check it out than you lose sleep. If it’s disturbing the peace, then it’s disturbing the peace. It’s up to us to determine that.”

Board of Selectmen Chairman Tom Breitweg agreed that some type of ordinance was needed and scheduled for the board to have a workshop to discuss the matter further on Sept. 5. The board will look at whether to prohibit fireworks, make an ordinance or make no changes. If the board decides to prohibit fireworks or make restrictions, it would be placed on November’s ballot.

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