Rockport considers municipal fireworks policy, hears resident complaint
ROCKPORT — Members of the Rockport Select Board advised Town Manager Bill Post at their Sept. 23 meeting that they would like him to bring before them copies of the fireworks ordinances in neighboring towns after hearing a fireworks-related noise complaint from resident Susan Sinclair.
Consumer use of fireworks in Rockport is currently regulated under state law, which allows fireworks to be set off between the hours of 9 a.m. and 10 p.m., with exceptions on July 4 and December 31 – on these dates fireworks may be used between 9 a.m. and 12:30 a.m. the following day.
The discussion of fireworks use in Rockport was placed on the Select Board’s agenda that evening following an e-mail sent by Sinclair to board member Debra Hall last month. In her email Sinclair suggested the town create an ordinance which would ban the use of fireworks after 9 p.m. with the exception of New Year’s Eve, and likened the sound of fireworks to “AK-47” assault rifles:
“The town is much more densely populated than it was even 30 years ago, and the large, random, war zone explosions until 10 p.m. are a physical, emotional, and psychological assault to families, domestic animals, and wildlife,” she wrote.
At the Monday night meeting, Sinclair said that the event which was the catalyst for her complaint occurred in August when fireworks were set off without being her being forewarned. The meeting was also attended by Police Chief Randy Gagne at Post’s request. Gagne had been asked to provide the board with fireworks-related complaints in recent years.
Gagne said that in searching through police records there were two different ways in which complaints would be identified: either in a case where fireworks were the subject or heading of the police report, or in “narrative” instances where, for example, police officers would respond to a report of a gun being discharged but discovered the sound had instead been the result of fireworks. Gagne provided the board with data spanning the past five years.
“In 2019, under the heading ‘fireworks,’ [Rockport] has had zero complaints,” he said. “Using the narrative word ‘fireworks,’ which would bring up any report which has the word ‘fireworks’ in it, I found five. Of those, only one complaint was after 10 p.m.”
Gagne added that over the past five years, there had been no reports of fireworks-related injuries.
Gagne informed the board that neighboring towns, including Camden, have municipal fireworks ordinances; in Camden the use of consumer fireworks is illegal unless the town has issued a permit for their use.
He said that both Rockland and Lincolnville have their own fireworks ordinances, but added that often by simply being ‘a good neighbor’ and informing nearby property owners of plans to use fireworks can alleviate the shock of hearing them, as well as provide those around you with something which they could have the opportunity to enjoy.
Selectman Jeff Hamilton said that Rockport does have noise ordinances in effect, and advised residents to contact the police to report a noise complaint, but Gagne pointed out that even under the town’s noise ordinances, the use of fireworks by citizens prior to 10 p.m. is legal and the police have no jurisdiction over their use in those allowable times.
Post then asked the board if they wanted to have further workshops on the subject of fireworks or creating a new ordinance for the town.
“I’m a little reluctant to make more meetings, hearings, writing an ordinance unless I really knew more about this instance [Sinclair mentioned]....One thing I don’t want the board to do is write an ordinance because there are two neighbors who don’t get along,” said Selectman Doug Cole.
Sinclair was the only member of the public who spoke in favor or against the use of fireworks in Rockport. Hall suggested that the Select Board query residents on the use of fireworks via the town’s Facebook page, and Cole asked Sinclair if she would petition her friends and neighbors on the subject so the board could have a better sense of how many citizens besides herself felt similarly.
“I think if you wrote something out and had ‘x’ number of people sign it and came back [to the board], it may have a little more traction,” said Cole.
“I would suggest that you do it in a non-inflammatory way... I’m just saying people will be more inclined to consider something if they’re not signing their name to something that sounds inflammatory,” said Hall.
The board then asked Post to provide them with examples of fireworks ordinances which have been adopted by other towns in the area. The next meeting of the Rockport Select Board is Tuesday, Oct. 16 at 6:30 p.m. at the Rockport Opera House.