Wiscasset voters OK fireworks permits
In a special election Tuesday, Wiscasset voters approved a fireworks ordinance allowing the use and sale of consumer fireworks by a tally of 78 to 46.
Now, Wiscasset businesses along Route 1 zoned for commercial and rural uses — and outside the town center — will be able to apply for state and local permits to sell fireworks for personal use. The ordinance states that businesses along Route 1 from the Woolwich-Wiscasset border to “the southerly end of Flood Avenue” will be eligible to apply for a town permit.
For residents, consumer fireworks could be legally discharged with a permit from the Wiscasset fire chief. Town Manager Laurie Smith said pyrotechnics permits will be similar to burns permit.
The ordinance requires that consumer fireworks applications be submitted to the Wiscasset Fire Department at least seven days before the discharge of the fireworks.
However, until Jan. 1, 2012, consumer fireworks are still illegal in the state. A bill passed by the Legislature this year makes consumer fireworks legal statewide, leaving it up to cities and towns to decide a policy on consumer fireworks, which are roughly defined as smaller fireworks that do not fly.
While the town’s policy is in place and the new state law will go into effect on Jan. 1, Smith said it may still be a while before Route 1 businesses begin selling consumer fireworks.
Since Wiscasset officials started to discuss allowing fireworks sale in town, Smith said she received inquiries from companies like Central Maine Pyrotechnics, which she said is looking to open a Mid- coast location, though “they haven’t said Wiscasset specifically and they have looked at a few other communities,” Smith said.
Al Cohen, owner of the Route 1 business Big Al’s Super Values, also expressed interest in selling consumer fireworks, Smith said.
Cohen did not return a call for comment placed Monday.
However, even after a business would make the decision to sell consumer fireworks, Smith said, the permitting process from the state could still take some time to develop.
According to information available today on the State Fire Marshal’s Office website, the state is still developing the licensing process that businesses will use to apply for and receive permits to sell consumer fireworks.
Having a local permitting process from the Planning Board in place, Smith said, will retain some of the town’s local control over which businesses are allowed to sell consumer fireworks in Wiscasset.
“ By having a municipal permit, it gives the town an opportunity to weigh in on that (state) decision-making,” Smith said.
In Tuesday’s election, voters also decided to allow Wiscasset’s municipal employees to join the state’s public employees retirement system.
Smith said that joining the state system will now make it easier for the town to attract employees for certain positions, such as police officers, who she said often have state retirement plans in other towns around the state.
“If they are in one community and they have a Maine state retirement plan and they want to leave, they might not want to because they can’t transfer (benefits in the state system) over,” Smith said.
That vote passed by a margin of 104 to 20.