GARDINER — You can buy fireworks in the city, but don’t shoot them off.

City councilors adopted that approach Wednesday when they voted 5-2 to enforce an ordinance that allows the sale and distribution of fireworks, but prohibits their use within city limits.

Councilors Thom Harnett and Kendall Holmes, the two dissenters, voted in favor of the proposed ordinance two weeks ago but changed their minds.

“I’ve given it a lot of thought and feel we made the correct decision to prohibit the use, but I do not feel the same way about retail sales,” Harnett said. “I think if we’re banning it for public use, it’s not consistent to say OK for retail.”

After lengthy discussions and public hearings, the council ultimately decided to amend the ordinance to a allow retail sale and distribution business at the city-owned Libby Hill Business Park. The ordinance needs to be approved at a second reading before taking effect.

Harnett said it would be good for Gardiner to have another company move into the financially struggling business park.

Steve Marson, owner of Central Maine Pyrotechnics, told councilors at the June 6 meeting that the business park was an ideal location for a warehouse to keep inventory for his retail stores. Marson has opened three fireworks stores — in Manchester, Winslow and Edgecomb — and is scheduled this month to open two more in Ellsworth and Presque Isle.

The proposed ordinance would allow a fireworks retail store in the warehouse.

Harnett said the sale of fireworks within the city would likely increase use, even though it would be illegal.

Holmes agreed. “I find it, at least to me, to be hypocritical if I voted in favor to allow the sale here in Gardiner, but don’t allow the use,” Holmes said.

He thinks the new state law allowing the sale and use of consumer fireworks was a mistake and that the Legislature should repeal it. Communities have the option of approving local rules to regulate or ban fireworks.

State law allows use of single-shell mortars, reloadable tubes, box barrages, Roman candles, sparklers, firecrackers and fountains, while still prohibits use of missile-type rockets, “helicopters” and aerial spinners, sky rockets and bottle rockets.

Councilor Robert Johnston encouraged Hartnett and Holmes to vote in favor of the proposal. He said the city would send the wrong message to businesses if the sale of fireworks were banned.

Councilor Philip Hart said he has received phone calls from residents who thought the ordinance was a good compromise and that officials should do all they can to bring businesses to Gardiner.

“I think we did find a compromise and people are happy that fireworks won’t be discharged within the city,” Hart said.

Councilors were set to approve the final reading of a fireworks ban last December, but instead enacted a six-month moratorium that was to end June 30, giving them more time to review the issue after Marson complained about attendance at the public hearings.

Councilors decided on Wednesday to extend the moratorium until the ordinance becomes law, which happens 30 days after final approval. A second reading is scheduled for July 11 and if it passes then, the rules would take effect Aug. 10.

In other matters, the council also voted unanimously to accept a credit card policy that allows employees to buy city materials and services with credit cards issued by the city.

City Manager Scott Morelli told councilors the city’s finance director would monitor the program, checking credit card statements with submitted receipts to ensure the card is used only for city business and the amounts are correct.

He said the credit card program will help prevent employees from needing to use their personal debit and credit cards for certain transactions and allow the city to accrue credit card points to help pay for expenses such as travel to conferences and employee recognition gifts.


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