Monday, March 10, 2014
PORTLAND — With almost no discussion Monday night, the City Council voted unanimously to ban the sale, possession and use of fireworks within city limits.
The ban was a response to a new state law legalizing fireworks that will take effect Jan. 1.
Although the City Council didn't debate the issue at the meeting, it took the advice of its Public Safety Committee, which endorsed the ban last month after Fire Chief Fred LaMontagne testified that the city is too densely populated to allow fireworks.
"I've heard nothing but folks urging us to pass this (ban)," said Councilor Ed Suslovic, the only official who spoke on the matter Monday. "I've heard absolutely no opposition."
Fines would range from $200 to $400 for people who possess or use fireworks, and $500 for selling fireworks, according to Nicole Clegg, the city's director of communications.
But the ban only includes "consumer" fireworks, which federal regulations define as any device that's designed to produce a sound and contains as much as 130 milligrams of explosive material.
That means non-explosive fireworks like sparklers will still be allowed, city officials said.
While just one city official spoke on the issue, resident Joanna Spinnett gave a passionate speech in favor of the ban. She said she recalled when fireworks were legal throughout the state. People had set off fireworks in her driveway, and even tossed one through her mail slot, which almost injured her.
She described an M-80 as the equivalent of "a quarter stick of dynamite."
"If I sliced a piece of dynamite into quarters and told you to take one home to your children and grandchildren to play with, would you do it?" she asked the council. "I don't think so."
Sponsors of the bill passed by the Legislature said people in Maine already use fireworks but there are no safety programs because they are illegal. With legal sales, supporters said, fireworks will create jobs and generate revenue for the state through the sales tax.
But no group ever came forward to support allowing fireworks in Portland.
At the Public Safety Committee meeting in August, City Councilor David Marshall noted that children setting off fireworks started the 1866 fire that devastated Portland, and that he and Suslovic would lobby for fireworks' prohibition. It turned out little lobbying was needed.
Staff Writer Jason Singer can be contacted at 791-6437 or at: firstname.lastname@example.org