December 30, 2012

Fireworks restrictions likely coming to Oakland

Although there have been few complaints or problems, majority of residents want some sort of control over consumer fireworks, town leaders say

By Matt Hongoltz-Hetling
Staff Writer

OAKLAND -- The new year is likely to bring fireworks restrictions to the town, as officials move toward a new ordinance.

Police logs and court records show a modest number of fireworks-related complaints in the town, and only a few fines related to fireworks offenses.

Town leaders said that widespread public sentiment in the town supports some sort of restriction on fireworks.

Fireworks are allowed in Oakland under a state law that went into effect at the beginning of 2012. The law allows year-round fireworks use between 9 a.m. and 10 p.m., but it also permits cities and towns to further restrict or ban their use and sale.

Town Manager Peter Nielsen said that he's not sure what measures will be taken, but a committee is developing a proposal for the council.

A survey of residents in November showed that 75 percent of 1,700 respondents wanted an ordinance that regulates fireworks more strictly than the state law, he said.

Nielsen said that a minority of residents said that they would support either a full ban or no restrictions at all.

Based on the survey results, the town council has asked for a specific proposed ordinance from the committee, which includes Police Chief Mike Tracy, Fire Chief Dave Coughlin and councilmen Don Borman and Dana Wrigley, both of whom recently won re-election.

Neighboring Waterville has banned the use and sale of fireworks, while Fairfield has restricted their use to four days of the year.

There have been a trickle of fireworks complaints throughout the last few months in Oakland.

In the month of July, police logs show about a dozen fireworks-related calls, including one in which a man reported that his truck was struck with fireworks while he drove on High Street.

During Fourth of July week, the town had fewer fireworks complaints to police than other area communities, with only three calls on the holiday. There were 12 in nearby Winslow and 13 in Waterville, where they are banned.

Police have been called twice to the Lewis Cemetery on Cottle Road for fireworks complaints, once in July and once in September. The state law allows use only on the users property, or other private property with permission of the owner.

Only a few instances of fireworks-related offenses have gone to area district courts.

Since July, court records in Skowhegan and Waterville district courts show that illegal use of fireworks resulted in two fines, of $50 and $200, since July. Another offense, allowing a person under age 21 possession or use of fireworks, resulted in a $100 fine.

In Oakland, Nielsen said he is unsure of how quickly an ordinance will be presented to the town council for possible approval.

Matt Hongoltz-Hetling -- 861-9287


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