LITCHFIELD — A bid by selectmen to ban the use and sale of fireworks in town went down in flames at Saturday’s annual town meeting.

Voters voiced irritation that the ordinance was never brought up for a public hearing and overwhelming rejected the proposal, which would have made it legal to possess fireworks inside town limits, but illegal to sell them or use them.

“We don’t need an ordinance right now,” said resident Richard Lane. “If we have a problem with it, let’s come back to it.”

The proposal was the only item rejected by roughly 80 residents who turned out for the three-hour meeting.

Among the budget items voters approved was a $400,000 request by the fire department to replace or refurbish four of the front-line vehicles. Voters agreed to spend the money by a 51-15 vote via secret ballot.

Voters also agreed to spend $105,000 out of capital reserve, and finance a $300,000 loan, for a large snowplow. The vote, also by secret ballot, was 57-14.

The $1.7 million municipal budget, which includes the county assessment and payment to Cobbossee Watershed, is up about $78,000, which will be covered by taking money left unspent from previous budgets. As a result, said Town Manager Michael Byron, the town budget will not result in a tax increase.

But, with school costs up by $209,000 for the upcoming school year, property taxes will rise from the current $11.95 per $1,000 of home valuation to an estimated $12.65 per $1,000, Byron said.

Voters who had been so agreeable heading into the final question on the warrant, the one preventing sale and use of fireworks, suddenly were less inclined to give their approval. Most residents, like Lane, agreed the town needed more time to see how the state’s decision to lift the ban on the sale and use of certain fireworks plays out. The ban was lifted in January.

Residents also were disappointed that selectmen chose to add the question to the warrant without first holding a public hearing.

“We should have brought this up at a public hearing that was publicized,” Lane said.

Selectman Rayna Leibowitz said she first presented the idea of a ban a few months ago. The board ran out of time to hold a public hearing on the ordinance, Leibowitz said, but felt it was important to include the questions anyway.

“I saw it as a public safety item we should bring,” Leibowitz said.

Resident Janet Pence was one of several people to vote in favor of the ordinance. She disapproves of the noise, but she also suggested shooting off fireworks near the lake could undermine efforts to reduce phosphorus in Cobbosseecontee Lake.

“This will only set us way back,” Pence said.

Other residents complained about being kept awake at night by exploding fireworks and even the potential impact on soldiers suffering from post traumatic stress disorder. Selectman Douglas Read said he has heard from farmers whose animals have been bothered by the noise.

“I think (a ban) puts us in a better position, liability-wise,” Read said.

Resident Howard Campbell, who is 83, said he remembers before Maine banned the sale and use of fireworks that it was common for people to be injured using them.

“That’s what you’re going to have here,” Campbell said.

Litchfield was one of three communities to hold its annual town meeting Saturday. The others include:

* Windsor, where a handful of residents breezed through the meeting in just more than an hour. Town Manager Theresa Haskell said property taxes should stay steady despite a nearly 5-percent increase in the town’s portion of the Regional School Unit 12 budget. Voters agreed to spend $400,000 from undesignated funds to help keep taxes in check.

* Fayettte, where voters approved a $627,000, which includes an increase of about $108,000 over the current year, over a 5-plus hour town meeting.

The current tax rate of $13.55 for each $1,000 of property will rise to about $14 per $1,000. Voters agreed to add 5 hours per week to code enforcement as requested by selectmen — the planning board had asked for an additional 12 hours — and rejected a local food ordinance. While nearly every question generated discussion, Town Manager Mark Robinson said residents spent a particularly long time talking about proposed changes to the land use ordinance and a resolution to send to the state lawmakers regarding laws that govern public easements that are not maintained with public money.

Craig Crosby — 621-5672

[email protected]


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