LINCOLNVILLE, Maine — Last summer, fireworks flared in the normally quiet community of Lincolnville — both in the skies and inside, when residents came to sometimes-heated selectboard meetings to complain about the displays they said were colorful and constant.
This year, some residents are hoping to stave off the second kind of fireworks by accepting an ordinance to control the first kind. Voters will cast secret ballots on Tuesday, June 10, to decide whether to accept the proposed consumer fireworks ordinance, which was written by a committee of residents, according to Lincolnville Town Administrator David Kinney.
If the ayes have it, the ordinance would allow fireworks in the community’s shoreland zone from 7-10 p.m. from April 1 to Oct. 31, with individual displays of fireworks allowed to last no more than one hour. However, on July 4 and for the weekend prior to and following the national holiday, fireworks could be used from 9 a.m. until 12:30 a.m. of the following day.
The ordinance would be enforced by the town’s “duly authorized law enforcement provider,” Kinney said, and infractions would bring penalties of not less than $50 and not more than $500.
The ordinance also would prohibit the use of fireworks on any town-owned property or on any day that’s rated class 4 or 5 for fire danger, according to the Maine Forest Service.
“If it is was a high fire day, why are we shooting fire into the sky?” Kinney explained.
If that seems like a commonsense dilemma that oughtn’t to require an ordinance to solve, just talk to some of the residents of Lincolnville, who last summer said their nights were disturbed and their dogs distressed by exuberant fireworks aficionados.
“If it’s no different from last summer, it’s problematic,” said Whitney Opporsdorff, who lives on Coleman Pond and served on the ordinance committee. “And the selectboard will once again hear from the people who live on the lakes and the ponds.”
Not everyone agrees that the community should enact an ordinance to take care of the problem, and others wonder how it would be enforced in reality.
Lincolnville residents decided at last year’s annual town meeting to eliminate the community’s own police department, and Kinney said that the Waldo County Sheriff’s Office would only enforce a fireworks ordinance if the town enters into a specific contract with it to do so.
Resident Cathy Hardy wrote a letter to the editor of the PenBay Pilot to say that the state fireworks law is sufficient and the proposed ordinance would put an “additional regulatory burden on the town” and that consideration of others and common courtesy should be enough.
Gov. Paul LePage signed a bill to legalize the sale, possession and use of consumer fireworks in 2011. After it went into effect in 2012, many communities moved to ban them altogether, but not Lincolnville, which has many ponds featuring summer rental cottages.
Opporsdorff said that the committee has asked members of the different lake and pond associations to put a clause in their rental agreements stating that no fireworks would be allowed on their properties, but did not put that in the ordinance.
“The committee was cautious, because we want it to pass,” she said. “We tried to be reasonable.”
Kinney said that Lincolnville selectmen decided this spring to put the matter to a public vote after hearing the recommendation of the committee, which was composed of Fire Chief Ben Hazen, Don Heald IV, Scott Crockett, Karen Good and Opporsdorff.
Elected officials hope that deciding by secret ballot on Election Day will allow for greater turnout as well as a democratic resolution to a small-town controversy.
“I think the best thing to do is to let the voters decide,” Selectman Rosey Gerry said.
Polls at Lincolnville Central School will open at 8 a.m. and close at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, June 10.