Portland council bans fireworks, OKs $3.1M Peaks Island sewer extension

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PORTLAND — When a new state law legalizing the sale and use of fireworks in Maine takes effect Jan. 1, city residents still won’t be able to celebrate with personal pyrotechnics.

At least, not legally.

The City Council on Monday voted unanimously – and without much discussion – to keep the sale, use and possession of explosive consumer fireworks illegal within city limits.

The council also approved a $3.1 million sewer expansion on Peaks Island that is expected to increase sewer rates citywide by 1.5 percent.

The fireworks ban was proposed by the council’s Public Safety Committee and endorsed by the Fire Department.

During an August meeting of the committee, councilors and the department cited the city’s dense neighborhoods and old housing stock as reason for a ban, as well as a fear that legal fireworks would increase nuisance calls.

Councilor Edward Suslovic said that since the committee took up the issue over the summer, he has heard “absolutely no opposition” to the ban.

Pleasant Avenue resident Joanna Spinnett spoke in support of the ban, saying she could remember when fireworks were legal. She feared that people would throw firecrackers at moving cars and at dogs.

Spinnett also relayed a story about how someone once threw a live firecracker through the mail slot of her door, which almost resulted in injury.

According to the ordinance, anyone caught using or possessing consumer fireworks in Portland could be fined between $200 and $400 for a first offense and between $300 and $600 for subsequent violations.

Anyone caught selling fireworks in Portland would be fined at least $500 for a first offense and at least $1,000 for subsequent offenses, and the city could seize the fireworks.

The ban does not include sparklers, city attorney Mary Costigan said.

Peaks Island

The council also unanimously approved a $3.1 million expansion of the public sewer system on Peaks Island.

Public Services Director Michael Bobinksy said it will take about a year to engineering the project. He expects construction to begin in 2013.

The project will be funded through sewer user fees. Councilor John Anton, the chairman of the Finance Committee, said the project will result in a 12-cent, or 1.5 percent, increase tp the current sewer user rate of $8.11.

The new system will be capable of servicing 28 households on Island Avenue and 32 households on Seashore Avenue. There are also 48 vacant lots, 23 on Island Avenue and 25 on Seashore Avenue, that could potentially connect to the system.

Suslovic questioned whether the investment is the most cost-effective way to address sewer and water-quality issues around the island. He said it could cost between $50,000 and $136,000 per household.

“That could buy one heck of a septic system for any one of these properties,” he said.

Bobinsky, however, said that course of action could not be funded through sewer users fees and would instead have to come from the city’s capital budget.

Randy Billings can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @randybillings