June 19, 2018
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Bangor council takes another step toward prohibiting fireworks

By Andrew Neff, BDN Staff

BANGOR, Maine — The fuse is quickly burning down toward the prohibition of fireworks sales and use in the city.

The City Council took a major step Wednesday night at its regular meeting toward enacting an ordinance prohibiting both the sale and use of fireworks in city limits and doing so before the November elections.

The full council, which has held two fireworks workshop sessions in the last three weeks, voted 7-2 to approve a second reading at the next council meeting of the ordinance, which prohibits the use, sale, possession with intent to use in Bangor or possession with intent to sell in Bangor. The council would be able to formally vote on the ordinance at the next meeting after the second reading.

It also voted — 8-1 in favor both times — to postpone indefinitely proposed ordinances regulating the sale and use of fireworks and establishing fees and regulations for businesses selling fireworks.

The next step would be for the planning board to review the ordinance proposal and send it back to the council with a recommendation and/or fine-tuning of the language for a full council vote.

A new law making fireworks sales and use legal in Maine will take effect Jan. 1, but the law also allows cities and towns to enact their own laws regulating or banning them.

Councilor Charlie Longo was the only councilor to vote against the proposed fireworks ban ordinance and against indefinite postponement of the other two proposed ordinances.

“Bangor is a service and commerce center and I don’t want to leave jobs on the table and send them to Brewer,” Longo said, referring to Brewer’s support for a proposed ordinance allowing sales and use of fireworks. “I agree that we shouldn’t have fireworks usage in the city for safety reasons, but I think that bringing jobs to this community is key and this is another way to do that.”

The Brewer City Council will vote on a proposed ordinance at its November meeting.

“I think we should be able to take care of ourselves and not be a nanny city,” Longo added.

Councilor David Nealley also voted against the proposed ban, saying he thought the council was “demonizing” fireworks.

“I can read the tea leaves so to speak and there doesn’t even seem to be great consensus even for the sale of fireworks here, but I’m not sure it’s in keeping with our goal of welcoming business and enterprise into our city,” Nealley said.

The other seven councilors cited safety as the prime reasons for their support of a ban.

“As a father of three, my main concern is with the safety of them and the people around us in Bangor,” Cary Weston said. “I’ve come to conclusion that both their use and sale is not right for Bangor.”

Nelson Durgin was not convinced allowing sales or use would lead to significant job creation.

“The number of jobs is difficult to determine. I think there would be few and they would be part-time at best,” Durgin said. “What is clear is the cost of policing their use and the cost of injuries outweighs that potential benefit.”

Geoffrey Gratwick related the story of a 9-year-old he once treated who badly burned by fireworks and said he was opposed to both sale and use.

Rick Bronson said he was on the fence until City Solicitor Norm Heitmann informed him of possible liability concerns and reminded him that the ordinance always can be amended or changed if it’s not working.

Patricia Blanchette was staunchly against it.

“They are disruptive to people’s lives, and four or five part-time jobs is not job creation, it’s an excuse for someone to come in here and disrupt things,” she said.

Councilor and Mayor Sue Hawes did not speak, but voted for the proposed prohibitive ban.

One Bangor resident spoke against allowing fireworks sales and use and two others voiced support during the citizen comment period.

Bangor Fire Chief Jeff Cammack reiterated that he wasn’t concerned with the sale or storage of fireworks by businesses in the city.

“I’m confident we can manage that,” said Cammack, who was against allowing their use in residential areas.

Correction: An early version of this story incorrectly stated that the Bangor City Council's 7-2 vote on a proposed ordinance banning sale and use of fireworks in Bangor meant the matter would be referred to the planning board. The 7-2 vote was in favor of a second reading of the ordinance. The council can formally vote on the ordinance after its second reading during the Oct. 24 council meeting.

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