Scarborough on track to allow fireworks 5 days a year; rules would be relaxed around Jan. 1, July 4

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SCARBOROUGH — The town has shifted course again on whether to allow consumer fireworks, this time advancing a proposal to allow their use five days a year. 

A package of ordinance changes pushed by the Ordinance Committee won preliminary approval from the Town Council on Wednesday. It would allow the use of consumer fireworks July 3-5, on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.

“I think it’s going to be easy to educate the public about these requirements, about the days these consumer fireworks are allowed and about how they’re enforced,” Town Manager Tom Hall said Wednesday.

The sale of consumer fireworks will be permitted and regulated by the town’s Fire Code.

The council has had a hard time reaching an agreement on fireworks, with some councilors advocating a “wait-and-see” approach while others pushed for an outright ban.

In September, councilors entertained a plan by Fire Chief Bruce Thurlow that would have allowed the sale and use of consumer fireworks, while requiring vendors to install sprinkler systems in their stores.

In November, they passed a first reading of a full ban, with Councilors Jessica Holbrook and Richard Sullivan opposed. They later reversed that decision and allowed state rule permitting the sale and use of consumer fireworks to take effect on Jan. 1. 

However elusive agreement has been, the current proposal seems to have unanimous support on the council.

All five councilors present on Wednesday voted for its approval, and Councilor Judy Roy said Chairman Ron Ahlquist, who was absent, told her he approved, too. Councilor Carol Rancourt said Sullivan, also absent, has supported the proposal as it moved through the Ordinance Committee, on which they both sit.

The proposal also includes changes to the town’s noise ordinance, acknowledging consumer fireworks and saying they would not be considered a violation on the days their use is allowed.

The noise ordinance amendment also makes clear that dogs barking in response to consumer fireworks also wouldn’t be in violation of the town’s noise rules.

Rancourt said many dog owners were concerned they would get in trouble if their pets were spooked by fireworks.

“We had quite a large amount of testimony related to the noise abatement portion,” she said.

Holbrook, who has consistently come down against outright bans, said she is OK with the holiday compromise, but she has concerns about the penalties outlined in the ordinance. 

Residents caught using consumer fireworks outside the permitted days would be fined $100-$500, plus attorney fees.

“I don’t want to see a $500 fine for holding a sparkler outside those five days,” she said. “Does the punishment really fit the crime?”

Holbrook said she will probably propose a change to the penalty structure when the ordinance comes up for second reading at the next Town Council meeting on March 7.

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

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