Bridgton selectmen budget $6,500 for fireworks

By Gail Geraghty

Staff Writer

Bridgton’s time-honored fireworks display is a sure bet this July 3, with a decision by Selectmen Tuesday to include $6,500 for fireworks in the fiscal year 2014–2015 budget. The vote was 3–2, with Selectmen Doug Taft and Bernie King opposed.

Passing the boot, or fundraising suppers and other events have been needed in recent years to fund the town’s fireworks. But during their initial budget review, board member Ken Murphy said enough is enough.

“I’m tired of people saying it costs too much money,” Murphy said. The 4th of July events in Bridgton are the town’s “biggest, most attractive time,” and fireworks are an essential part of that, he said. “Fireworks are something you shouldn’t Band-Aid. It’s the American way.” He said the Masons and other organizations that stepped in to help raise funds for fireworks should be able to fundraise for other causes, such as scholarships.

Board member Paul Hoyt said the annual 4 on the Fourth Race draws thousands to town. He said he’s typically cautious about asking taxpayers to pay for extras, but fireworks are “one of the few things that the town should pay for.” He added that there’s a chance the town could save considerable money by buying the fireworks early.

Recreation Director Gary Colello said companies he’s talked to will sell at a discount provided that a fireworks order is placed by Dec. 31. The town missed the deadline this year, but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t pursue a discounted purchase for next year’s display.

Residents gave generously last year for the fireworks cause. Even though the budget would cover the cost of fireworks this year, fundraising efforts should continue in order to take advantage of the early buying discount, selectmen agreed.

A fireworks ban?

But it remains to be seen whether everyday residents will be allowed to use fireworks. Selectman Bob McHatton is lobbying hard for a referendum this year on whether the use of consumer fireworks should be banned in town.

“I’ve had a lot of people talk to me about not wanting fireworks (being shot off) around their homes, neighborhoods and children,” McHatton said. “All this is, is a question I’m not afraid to put out there. What I’m asking for is to make (the use of consumer) fireworks illegal.”

The Maine Legislature repealed a statewide fireworks ban several years ago, leaving it up to individual towns to decide whether to adopt ordinances either limiting or banning their use. Bridgton was one town to do so, with last year’s passage of a Fireworks Ordinance that allows their use, but places stricter regulations on that use than state law requires.

Taft pointed out that voters passed the ordinance by a wide margin, but McHatton said voters nevertheless were not given the opportunity to vote on a fireworks ban.

The board agreed to table discussion on the matter until a future meeting.

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