2017-07-21 / Community

No bang for new fireworks ordinance

By Wm. Duke Harrington Staff Writer

Despite the advance work put in by Kennebunk public safety officials to ensure compliance with the town’s new fireworks ordinance, the public reaction appears to have been a collective yawn.

In a July 11 report on Kennebunk’s first Independence Day holiday under the newly-enacted rules, Fire Chief Jeffrey Rowe said his department issued just 25 permits for use.

The new ordinance adopted by voters June 13 limits use of consumer fireworks in town to two days per year, July 4 and Dec. 31, from 9 a.m. until 12:30 a.m. the following day.

In order to legally shoot of fireworks, residents must obtain a permit from the fire department on the intended day of use. That permit may be denied depending on the fire danger rating for that day issued by the Maine Forestry Service. Residents may also take out two additional permits per year, “based on good cause shown” to “accommodate special occasions.”

To prepare for the expected rush of permit requests, as well as questions about the new rules, Rowe said his department printed and distributed an information brochure, now available on the town website at http://kennebunkmaine.us/890/ Fireworks-in-Kennebunk.

Rowe said the department also created an email address, fireworks@kennebunkmaine.us, to field additional questions and created a computerized tracking program in cooperation with the police department to keep tabs on where in town permits were issued, and complaints filed.

“It wasn’t as busy as we had anticipated,” Rowe said.

However, it wasn’t just a case of few permits being issued because few people bothered to obey the new rules. Just 16 complaints of fireworks noise have been lodged year-to-date, Rowe said — the lowest tally to this point in the past five years.

“That could be because the Fourth fell in the middle of the week this year,” Selectman Shiloh Schulte said. “It could well pick up in future years.”

According to data supplied by Lt. Eric O’Brien of the Kennebunk Police Department, officers fielded 48 fireworks complaints in 2012, the year the product became legal for use in Maine, followed by 45 complaints in 2013, 36 in 2014 and 2015, and 21 last year. Since the new ordinance went into effect, local officers have issued five warnings and no citations for violating the permit requirement.

Town Manager Michael Pardue has said the emphasis for the first year of the new ordinance will be on public education over enforcement.

However, if a violation is flagrant enough to warrant a summons, selectmen have set the penalty structure at $50 for a first offense, $100 for the second, and $250 for a third.

Staff Writer Duke Harrington can be reached at news@kennebunkpost.com.

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