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City seeks input on fireworks at Sept. 29 workshop meeting

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ELLSWORTH — Anyone with an interest in the future of fireworks within the city limits, mark your calendars for Monday, Sept. 29.

From 6:30 to 8 that night, the City Council will hold a workshop to get input from residents on whether any changes need to be made to the city’s fireworks regulations.

Ellsworth’s existing fireworks ordinance focuses primarily on regulating the sale of fireworks. It does, however, state that fireworks may not be lit inside of a building and may not be used when the fire danger is high.

State law allows fireworks to be used from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. year-round, with extended hours around the Fourth of July and New Year’s holidays. Certain types of fireworks, such as bottle rockets, are banned.

Municipalities can adopt more strict regulations, up to and including an outright ban on all fireworks use. Otherwise, state law provides the only guidelines.

The workshop in Ellsworth was scheduled after the City Council heard complaints and concerns — ranging from sleepless nights to terrified pets — from a group of downtown residents in July.

City Manager Michelle Beal said Tuesday that city staff from the clerk’s office and police, fire and code enforcement departments have spent the past two months researching fireworks and associated concerns. Their findings will be presented to the council on Sept. 29, in the form of a three-page memo.

“We really tried to do our homework,” Beal said, noting the research included looking at environmental concerns and complaints that fireworks are bad for people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Beal said city officials will not be making a recommendation to the council for any changes. Instead, they will leave it to the council to decide if any changes need to be made based on the information shared and what residents have to say.

Beal said city officials want anyone with an interest in fireworks — those who enjoy using them as well as those who have concerns — to come to the workshop and share their opinion.

“It’s really hard to make a really informed decision for the public when you’re only hearing one side of the issue,” she said.

Beal said city staff looked at what other Maine communities have done since fireworks were legalized in the state in 2012. She said municipal responses have varied, meaning Ellsworth has plenty of options if the council thinks changes are needed.

“We may not need to ban them completely,” Beal said. “We may just need to reduce the hours they can be used. There are so many answers to this issue.”

Steve Fuller

Steve Fuller

Reporter at The Ellsworth American,
Steve Fuller worked at The Ellsworth American from 2012 to early 2018. He covered the city of Ellsworth, including the Ellsworth School Department and the city police beat, as well as the towns of Amherst, Aurora, Eastbrook, Great Pond, Mariaville, Osborn, Otis and Waltham. A native of Waldo County, he served as editor of Belfast's Republican Journal prior to joining the American. He lives in Orland.
Steve Fuller

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