Newport residents to decide fate of fireworks

Posted Sept. 06, 2012, at 5:18 p.m.

NEWPORT, Maine — Newport’s Board of Selectmen will let the voters decide whether or not to allow the use of fireworks in town.

At a public hearing last month, several residents complained about the noise from fireworks use. Some said fireworks were shot off near their homes late at night and several nights a week.

The selectmen voted unanimously Wednesday night to put a question on the Nov. 6 ballot asking residents whether they want to continue to allow fireworks use in Newport or ban them.

“We felt that the town needs to decide on this,” Chairman Tom Breitweg said Thursday. “We got a lot of complaints on this, especially in town, where it’s more populated.”

During last month’s meeting, Town Manager James Ricker said he received 47 signatures from residents who wanted fireworks prohibited.

Newport Police Chief Leonard 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 during August’s meeting were already illegal under 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 State Fire Marshal Joe Thomas in July. 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.

The state lifted the law banning fireworks in Maine on Jan. 1.

Only Cedric O’Donnell, who co-owns Newport Fireworks on Route 7, spoke against making an ordinance prohibiting fireworks. He asked the selectmen last month to wait six months for the novelty of newly allowed fireworks to wear off.

“I would assume this year would be the most active in fireworks use everywhere,” O’Donnell said in August.

Breitweg said fireworks complaints will likely be going down now that summer is drawing near an end.

“I don’t think it will be that much of a deal right now going forward. We’ll see,” said Breitweg.

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