Divided Brunswick Town Council bans sale, use of fireworks

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BRUNSWICK — The town will continue to be a fireworks-free community, after the Town Council voted 6-3 Monday to ban the use and sale of pyrotechnics.

Brunswick joins towns like Freeport, Portland, South Portland, Falmouth, Cape Elizabeth and Yarmouth in banning fireworks, which become legal under state law beginning Jan. 1, 2012. The law allows municipalities to enact local restrictions.

In Bath, city councilors also voted to prohibit the use and sale fireworks in town, but must vote again in January. Topsham voters will decide whether or not to ban fireworks at the Annual Town Meeting in May, but until then they are legal. No ban has been proposed in Harpswell.

On Monday night, councilors discussed whether to enact an outright ban on use and sale, or to allow fireworks in rural areas, as proposed by Councilor Gerald Favreau.

Those who supported a total ban cited statistics on injuries caused by fireworks, especially to children and bystanders, while those in favor of allowing fireworks spoke of the importance of personal responsibility.

“You can’t change stupid. You’re going to have stupid people,” said resident Jennifer Johnson, who supported allowing fireworks in town. “Everything used with responsibility is safe.”

Resident Randy Dumont argued that people would continue to be injured by fireworks, regardless of legality, and said the town could collect revenue by charging a fee for a fireworks permit.

On the other side, residents like Rich Ellis expressed concern that allowing fireworks in rural Brunswick would suggest the health and safety of children living in those areas is less important than elsewhere in town.

Others, like Mike Laskey, said it would be confusing to permit fireworks in some areas but not others, a concern shared by Chairman Joanne King.

Councilor Suzan Wilson said she personally opposes a ban on fireworks, but said she has been approached by so many constituents who want a ban that she would vote on their behalf.

“I would probably be supporting (the) ban here against my own libertarian leanings,” she said.

Several residents wondered if voters could decide for themselves through a referendum.

“It’s a very controversial issue and I think the people should have the right to vote,” Jim Chase said.

But councilors opted to decide on their own.

Still, the Town Charter allows voters to overturn by referendum all ordinances enacted by the council.

King encouraged residents to begin the referendum process if they feel strongly about the decision.

Emily Guerin can be reached at 781-3661 ext.123 or eguerin@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @guerinemily.