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Scarborough limits fireworks to five days per year

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Scarborough limits fireworks to five days per year

SCARBOROUGH — The Town Council on Wednesday voted to allow consumer fireworks around the Fourth of July and New Year's Eve.

A package of ordinance changes pushed by the Ordinance Committee allows the use of products like bottle rockets, morning glories and roman candles on July 3-5, New Year's Eve and New Year's Day. 

Using fireworks in Scarborough outside those five days could result in a $100-$500 fine.

"This is a good compromise," between those who wanted to allow fireworks under a new state law permitting them and those who wanted to ban them entirely, said Councilor Judy Roy. 

"Fireworks, I think, are used predominantly around the July Fourth holiday. I don't know how much they're used around New Year's," she said.

Councilors have struggled since September to decide whether Scarborough would limit the sale and use of consumer fireworks. A law signed last year by Gov. Paul LePage made the products legal in Maine for the first time in decades, but allowed for municipal officials to prohibit them as they saw fit.

Scarborough first considered allowing the products completely. In November, the council gave initial approval for a full ban, only to reject that ban two weeks later.

In December, Town Manager Tom Hall proposed a stop-gap to control the use of fireworks until the council made a decision. Councilors rejected that proposal too, meaning that since Jan. 1, consumer fireworks have been legal in Scarborough.

Hall has supported the five-days-per-year proposal, saying it will be easily understood by the public and easily enforced.

Judy Camuso, a biologist with the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, told the council she hoped they'd consider banning fireworks on town beaches, where the noise and parties that often accompany displays could disturb nests of endangered piping plovers.

"Fireworks being displayed on beaches are known to cause displacement and nest failure," she said.

Councilors pointed out that town's ordinance follows state law in not allowing fireworks to be discharged on beaches. 

Councilor Jessica Holbrook said she was worried the ordinance could result in fines for novelty items like sparklers, which have been legal for years.

That's because the state law inadvertently included those items as consumer fireworks. By banning them 359 days per year, Scarborough has technically made them illegal.

Hall said he'd spoken with the state fire marshal's office, who told him its intent was not to ban sparklers and the like, and that no fire marshal would enforce the law against those novelty items. Hall said state fire marshals would be trying to get the legal definition changed to exclude sparklers.

"Soon after the current law was drafted, much less enacted, it became clear there were some deficiencies," Hall said. "To the extent the state law's definitions change in the future, we may need to go back and modify our ordinance."

In other Town Council business on Wednesday:

• Councilors gave initial approval to a package of changes to the town's Administrative Code, which along with the Town Charter governs the day-to-day operation of the town. The changes were mostly housecleaning and modernizing, to bring the code in line with current practices or moved text from one governing document to another. It did strike an old provision  prohibiting town employees from holding their jobs after the age of 65.

• Councilors similarly gave a nod to updates to the town's Procedure Guide for Town's Committee/Boards.

• Jue Cuetera, the town's financial adviser, said the town's bonds would be refinanced at a "substantially lower" interest rate, resulting in savings of a half-million dollars over the terms of the bond. He also said this means that despite bonding the $39 million construction of a new Wentworth Intermediate School, the town will not see an increase in debt service payments next year. In fiscal year 2012, the town budged $8.3 million to pay down bonded debt, which includes principal and interest.

Mario Moretto can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or mmoretto@theforecaster.net. Follw him on Twitter: @riocarmine.