Maine Fireworks Ordinances

We recently had a citizen of Sidney, Maine issue a fireworks complaint and request that the town implement an ordinance.  As a newly elected representative I am still learning a lot of new language, processes and the order of things.  As I did my research on fireworks laws it occurred to me that it might be helpful to share some information I have learned in particular about fireworks laws in Maine and ordinances in general.

Some townsfolk I talked to seemed to think that UNLESS there is a local  ordinance there are no rules to be followed. This is not true.  A local ordinance is a piece of legislation that may be adopted by a town, city or municipality that is in addition to (i.e. often more strict than) state and federal laws.  In other words, if a town does not have a specific ordinance in place, then the laws and rules around an issue are governed by state law, which is often stricter than federal law.

Many towns around Sidney have implemented fireworks ordinances that focus on the sale and use of fireworks. Maine state law explicitly defines when fireworks may be used. Federal law clearly defines who may sell fireworks and what fireworks may be sold legally and by whom.

So let’s visit the Federal, Maine State, and some local fireworks law.

Title 27, Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Chapter II – Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Department of Justice, Part 555 deals with federal law for Commerce in Explosives.

Subpart 11 of Title 27, Section 555 defines what “Consumer Fireworks” are, and these are the only type of fireworks permitted to be sold within Maine.

Maine State Law Title 8, Chapter 9-A, Sections 221 through 237 deal with fireworks law in Maine.

In Maine “consumer fireworks” do NOT include missile-type rockets, helicopters, aerial spinners, sky rockets, bottle rockets, or sky lanterns (chinese lanterns, floating paper with any type of fuel). These types of fireworks are illegal in Maine.

Maine Public Law, Chapter 416, Title 8, Chapter 9-A, Section 223-A really lays out the details of the sale and use of fireworks in Maine. Paragraph or subsection 2 specifically directs municipalities in Maine to implement their own ordinances if desired that further restricts the sale or use of fireworks.

So to my fellow Sidney citizens…..

Without an ordinance, this Maine fireworks usage guide offers good, quick, information.

Fireworks in Maine may be used ANY day between the hours of 9:00am and 10:00pm, except on certain days of the year where they may be used for LONGER periods of time. Only “consumer fireworks” may be used. Fireworks may only be used on YOUR property or on another person’s property with their expressly given consent.

I looked at the towns of Augusta, Winslow, and Oakland, who do have fireworks ordinances (feel free to Google: <insert town name> fireworks ordinance.)

The City of Augusta prohibits the use or sale of fireworks completely unless you have a display permit issued by the City and establishes fines/fees different from the State of Maine.

The City of Winslow requires a permit for the sale of fireworks and establishes fines/fees different from the State of Maine.

The City of Oakland establishes stricter areas of use as well as prohibiting the use of fireworks under the influence of any drugs or alcohol. They also establish restrictions on use when the danger of natural fire is higher. Oakland also defines specific days when fireworks may be used that are stricter than the State of Maine and requires a permit to use fireworks on weekends.

And there are different regulations around “displays” versus “consumer” fireworks.

I encourage you to read the Maine state law on fireworks. And if your neighbors are truly breaking the law, as opposed to simply annoying you within their lawful rights, contact your town representatives for clarification and assistance.

 

Whooo – What a Busy Couple of Months

It’s been a whirlwind couple of months since the election in late March as I have gotten more settled into the Selectman position. I find myself taking a lot of notes during meetings – terminology I need to look up, ordinances/procedures/laws that I need to learn more about, general education around how roads are designated, built and maintained, understanding rights-of-way and easements. It’s all good work and I am still excited to be learning more about town management, land development, town services, community and citizenry, and so much more.

One of the things I find myself researching and learning more about recently is the balance between growing the community (adding more homes), absorbing people who want to live in Sidney or planning for better housing to provide better for our older population, and preserving the farmland, open spaces, privacy, beauty, and rural character of Sidney, which is what attracts people to our little town, tucked between Augusta and Waterville.

I am also gaining an appreciation for the subtle shifts in meaning and definitions of specific terms and phrases, and how they are used when describing a situation, process, procedure or establishment.

And I am gaining newfound respect for just how intricate and complicated it can be to do something as seemingly simple as putting a dock in for a boat for our Sidney First Responders.  Gating, security, signage, citizen protection, protection of property/assets (life vests, bouys, ropes, etc.), proper storage/coverage for the boat (to keep gauges and sensitive parts safe), making sure that the work is supported by local law enforcements/codes/regulations….not so simple at all.

This work really begins to teach you to take a step back, think before you speak, and consider may more angles and perspectives than you might be prone to do. And to be able to do that, you need to be aware and knowledgeable that those factors exist, let alone how to approach each one.

It’s a learning curve. But so far its manageable, its interesting, and its exciting to begin to understand all that goes on behind the scenes; all the work and commitment it takes on a day to day basis on the part of our town administration, road crews, transfer station employees, fire and rescue, school boards and administration, your selectmen, cemetery maintenance, animal control, and more to ensure that sleepy little Sidney remains the well-oiled, quiet, attractive town it is.

Sidney Selectboard Meeting 1/29/2018

I have decided that I will sit in on Sidney’s Selectboard How do towns handle mass gatherings? meetings now through the time I am sworn in at the annual town meeting.  I wanted to start meeting everyone, get a feel for the flow of the meetings, absorb my colleagues’ energy, and learn more about the issues on the table.

Tonight’s meeting was filled with items from approving the minutes from last week, to discussing the proposal/quote for printing the town’s annual meeting report, to an executive session to review town employees’ performance (I had to leave for the exec parts :-), to AED/CPR training and certification, to the big ticket on the agenda, which was creating a mass gathering ordinance for our town that is fair to all tax-paying residents. We also had a visit from 2 representatives from Spectrum Generations, who asked the Selectboard to consider adding a request for monetary support for approval/vote by the town.

I met Angela more formally tonight. She is the Admin. Assist. to the Board of Selectman and she is very good at what she does. I met Leon, the warm bear of a man who keeps Sidney’s roads in tip-top shape. I got to say hi to Winnie, our Town Clerk, Treasurer & Tax Collector, before she scooted in for her annual review.  And I met Tim, John, Laura, and Sarah, 4 of the 5 current Selectpersons.

You can tell they’ve worked together for a while. They have quick, playful banter, can finish each others sentences, and though they clearly have different views on issues, they speak to each other very respectfully and hear each other out.

I learned that I will have to play catch up on some local and state law and tonight Google was my friend to explain “abatements” a bit more for me. But I am up to the challenge and I look forward to working with this group of dedicated individuals. It feels exciting to be a part of my local government and I am a bit awed at the opportunity to serve the 4,208 residents of Sidney, most of whom don’t even know I exist 🙂  I always did like working behind the curtains!

The Journey Begins

One person can make a difference, and everyone should try. — John F. Kennedy

Today, January 19, 2018, I submitted my signature list to the town office of Sidney, Maine to run for one of the open selectpersons’ positions. Universe willing I will be able to serve after the town vote on March 23rd, 2018. If elected, I’ll get sworn in on March 24th at the Annual Town Meeting.

I have lived in Sidney for 17 years. This is my first foray into public service (so long as you don’t count being part of the PTO or a Cub Scout Den Leader.) I have decided I want to try and make a difference in my community. It takes leadership, cooperation, and organization at this very local level to impact policies and decisions at higher levels. Have to start somewhere. At the very least I am eager for the opportunity to learn how my town operates and to be more involved in decision-making and outcomes.

One of the biggest surprises to me as I collected signatures was how many couples there were in my immediate vicinity, older couples, where the husband was registered, but the wife was not – and the sentiment was that voting really doesn’t matter anyway. I passionately beg to differ. I will find data on close-call local races that shows just how much one or two votes can make a difference.

My intent in setting up this site is to share information, solicit opinions, listen to suggestions and ideas, and to bring your voice to selectboard meetings if you are not able to participate. I sincerely make myself available to you and you have my word that I will do the best job I can.