Public education seen as key to draft fireworks ordinance

By Gail Geraghty

Staff Writer

Bridgton Selectmen on Tuesday continued to fine-tune a proposed new Fireworks Ordinance that is only slightly more restrictive, in terms of times fireworks can be used, than what the new state law passed a year ago already allows.

When Police Chief Kevin Schofield first presented the draft ordinance to the board Jan. 8, he said members of the Fireworks Committee acted on a “directive not to be too restrictive in any recommendations we made to the board.”

Instead, Fireworks Committee members Schofield, Greg Jones, Glen Garland and Glen “Bear” Zaidman are planning to mount an outreach campaign to educate landlords and owners of summer rental property, in hopes that knowledge of the state law will go a long way toward minimizing fireworks complaints. The state law requires anyone shooting off fireworks on another person’s property to obtain permission first from the property owner.

The committee discussed the idea that use of fireworks be banned in certain high-density downtown neighborhoods, but “Instead of trying to pinpoint it through density, we chose to do it through an educational program,” Schofield said.

On Tuesday, Selectman Doug Taft suggested the permission be obtained in writing from the property owner. He said it might make the police department’s job easier if they didn’t have to track down whether a fireworks user was telling the truth when saying he or she had the owner’s permission.

State law currently allows the use of fireworks from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. during Daylight Savings Time, and from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. after the end of Daylight Savings Time. The state law also allows fireworks to be used up to 12:30 a.m. on the weekend before and the weekend after the 4th of July.

The Bridgton draft ordinance is slightly more restrictive, in that fireworks would only be allowed up to 12:30 a.m. on the weekend following the 4th of July, but not the weekend previous to the Fourth, except if the 4th of July falls on a Monday.

Schofield said the committee also added a more precise definition of the term “weekend,” as meaning the hours between 5 p.m. Friday through 10 p.m. Sunday. He said the state law does not address the hour of day when the weekend begins and ends.

Zaidman said state law prevents anyone from using fireworks on any town property unless they have a permit.

Selectman Woody Woodward said at the Jan. 8 meeting that Bridgton residents traditionally shoot off a lot of fireworks on the 3rd of July, which is the same night that the town holds its fireworks display. Any ordinance that would make fireworks illegal after 10 p.m. on July 3 would be very hard to enforce, he said.

Zaidman said he has heard from residents that if the ordinance is too restrictive, it would be rejected. However, board member Bob McHatton said some residents may see the committee’s draft ordinance as not being restrictive enough.

Public hearing will be held on the draft ordinance later this spring, with the plan of having it go before the voters in June.

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