September 28, 2013






Fireworks ignite controversy in Lubec

by JD Rule

   Local resident Jean DeVeber addressed the Lubec Board of Selectmen during their regular meeting on September 12, urging the board to consider a fireworks control ordinance. She explained that since recent changes to state law had legalized the purchase and use of fireworks, with very few restrictions, the frequency of late‑night explosions had increased to the point of causing alarm in town. Approximately 30 people crowded into the meeting room, many of whom appeared to have come in support of DeVeber.
     Selectman Michael Scrivani pointed out that, if such an ordinance were proposed, it could not become effective until approved by voters during the town's next annual meeting, set for August 2014. "Every other state is banning these, and here in Maine they're making them legal," he said before raising the question of enforcement.
     "People need to know," said board Chair Maureen Glidden. "The law says you have to be 21, use them on private property and not do it after 10," continued Glidden. "And," added Scrivani, "if it starts a fire, you're legally responsible." Selectman Joanne H. Case said, "They should not be allowed in the town at all, from Uncle Kippy's [restaurant] all the way through the village."
     Washington County Sheriff Donnie Smith, a Lubec resident, was in the audience. He pointed out that he does not have the capacity to enforce fireworks restrictions beyond investigating complaints. As he normally has three deputies patrolling the entire county, by the time one of them arrived at the scene the responsible parties "would be long gone." He pointed out that each investigation "costs 50 bucks" so the best way to effect change would be to call in a complaint each time. "My deputies will probably cut my throat for saying that," he quipped. "We don't have a patrol division, we have a complaint division," he said.
     "What do we have to do?" asked Town Administrator John Sutherland, "petition our legislature?" Smith replied, "You probably won't get very far with that."
      Other residents spoke of witnessing late‑night activities, including tire‑spinning noise and what was believed to be drug transactions. "The word is out, Lubec is wide‑open," said one.
     "Can we afford half a million dollars," asked Scrivani, "to set up our own police department?" Selectman Sara McConnell said, "There's other options." She continued, "People are getting hurt; people don't feel safe."
     "Take a look at how Winter Harbor does it," suggested Smith. He briefly described how that town, also with a high number of summer visitors and a small full‑time population, has one full-time officer and hires additional officers on a seasonal basis. "That's my understanding of how they do it," he said.
      "One thing you could do," Smith commented, "is to require fireworks users to get a permit from the fire department."
     "I hope [Fire Chief] Bobby Hood isn't listening," replied Case, "but that's a great idea."

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