Montpelier considers tighter controls on fireworks
MONTPELIER — The city may soon have a new tool to do something about increasing issues with fireworks displays.
A first-ever fireworks ordinance that will be on the table at this week’s City Council meeting would add tighter controls and enforcement “teeth” to an existing requirement that anyone using fireworks obtain a permit.
The proposal that Fire Chief Robert Gowans is bringing to the council Wednesday looks to control how and where fireworks are used, he said Monday. One new requirement would be a site visit by officials before issuing a permit.
“Over the last few years, we’ve started to get more and more complaints” about fireworks, Gowans said, adding that neighbors of people setting off displays have contacted city officials with increasing frequency.
Fireworks sold to the public “are getting to be bigger and more popular, and they are available locally, so people are having shows, and debris is falling on their neighbors’ property, and it’s upsetting people,” Gowans said.
He and Police Chief Anthony Facos teamed up to investigate options for an ordinance to control fireworks and a schedule of fines for those not abiding by it, Gowans said.
The six-month effort included researching both in-state and out-of-state measures aimed at controlling fireworks. Only two states, Connecticut and Massachusetts, do not permit the sale or use of consumer-grade fireworks, Gowans said. In both those states only a “licensed, insured, trained professional” may set off fireworks, he said.
In his research, the chief said, “I could not find another ordinance (controlling fireworks) in Vermont.”
Earlier, the fire and police chiefs had approached the council about considering a ban, but reaction was mixed when the issue was last discussed at the council in January.
“What I am proposing is that fireworks are not within 150 feet of any building, street or public area,” Gowans said.
Other provisions in the proposal include:
— Fireworks shall not be used if all debris cannot be contained on the owner’s property.
— Any person using fireworks in the city must be at least 21 years old, and the consumption of alcohol or drugs shall be strictly prohibited by anyone using fireworks.
— An on-site inspection by the Fire Department must be completed before a permit will be issued.
— All fireworks displays must be completed by 11 p.m.
— A fireworks permit application must be made at least 15 days in advance of the display.
Other options for consideration, Gowans notes in the proposal, include limiting fireworks use to a licensed, insured, trained professional, similar to what is on the books in Connecticut and Massachusetts; allowing fireworks only on specified days; or allowing them only in a designated area.
Assistant City Manager Jessie Baker said Monday that this week’s first reading of the proposed ordinance before the council constitutes the first public hearing on it. She said the council may choose to set a required second hearing for the following meeting, May 14, but that there is no enactment date for the ordinance until the process is complete.
The free fireworks permits must be approved by both the fire and police chief, said Gowans, who added that unpermitted fireworks displays are definitely happening in the city.
Facos said Monday that he would be looking at enforcement options as the city looks to implement a fireworks ordinance.
Gowans said the fee structure “has to have some teeth, or why send an officer out?”
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