MONMOUTH — Kent Ackley swears he enjoys a good fireworks display as much as anyone else.

However, his zeal has been taxed to the limit by a near-nightly barrage of booms and bangs. After countless sleepless nights, Ackley thinks it’s time to call a cease-fire.

“For decades fireworks were banned, and maybe that wasn’t reasonable,” he said, “but to see the pendulum swing all the way to the other side of the spectrum and turn our peaceful, quiet state into the Wild West doesn’t make sense.”

Last week, Ackley submitted a petition that would limit the use of fireworks in town to 10 days per year, from 5 to 10 p.m., on the holidays and corresponding weekends of Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, Labor Day and New Year’s Eve. The proposed ordinance also would prohibit use on any day when the forest fire danger is a Class 4 or 5, or within 50 feet of any combustible structure.

The proposal wouldn’t prohibit fireworks sales, so it would not directly affect Patriot Fireworks, the town’s lone fireworks retailer.

Jay Blais, co-owner of Patriot Fireworks, said he agrees with the provision prohibiting use when the forest fire danger is high — “if you can’t get a burn permit, you shouldn’t use fireworks” — but he said the 10-day limitation is “kind of extreme.”

“What if a kid has a graduation party, or there’s a wedding — you lose your right to use something the state and federal government says is legal,” Blais said.

The town now relies on state law, which limits fireworks use from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. — except for the Fourth of July and New Year’s Eve, when the curfew is midnight. Users must be 21 or older and can shoot off fireworks only from their own property, unless they have permission from the land owner.

“These safety provisions are a matter of commons sense,” Ackley said. “People want to feel safe in their community and enjoy the peace and quiet of their homes. That’s why they chose to live in rural Monmouth.”

The petition comes on the heels of a fireworks public hearing held Wednesday in response to another petition, which asked selectmen to take action to limit fireworks use without making specific recommendations. Town Manager Curtis Lunt said about 50 people attended the hearing and offered spirited debate on what action, if any, the town should take. He said the audience as a whole seemed to favor restriction, but a number of people favored maintaining the status quo.

“This subject has touched everybody,” Lunt said.

Lunt said Ackley’s petition has been sent to the town attorney to make sure it passes legal muster. Assuming it clears that hurdle, selectmen probably will put the ordinance proposal on the Nov. 6 election ballot. Lunt said there will be at least one public hearing on the proposal before the vote.

The petition required at least 192 signatures to force a town-wide vote. Ackley said the group Monmouth Citizens for Sensible Fireworks collected more than 350 signatures — Lunt said the town certified 331 — in slightly more than two weeks.

“It’s not hard when you have something that desperately needs to be addressed,” Ackley said.

Frustration is rising across town, he said. Residents in the rural, farming areas say their horses and livestock are constantly being spooked by the sporadic explosions. Displays in town disrupt a significant number of homes, Ackley said. Residents have expressed concerns about wildlife, particularly the loon population, and some people with health concerns fear the start caused by loud, unexpected explosions.

“We’ve heard from a lot of parents who listen to fireworks at 9:30 at night and have concerns about their sons and daughters getting a good night’s sleep for school,” Ackley said.

Ackley lives on Annabessacook Lake, along with about 250 seasonal and year-round homeowners.

“If there’s one family that decides they want to celebrate on any given day, they’re celebrating with all 250 neighbors,” he said. “I like fireworks. I enjoy beautiful fireworks. I just don’t enjoy them 365 days a year. I like to celebrate, but I need to sleep, too.”

Ackley said most residents are hesitant to confront neighbors about disturbing the peace. Frustration is leading to animosity between neighbors, he said.

“I don’t like to have someone tell me what to do and I don’t like to tell someone how to behave,” Ackley said, “but when you have no common sense in the law, unfortunately someone’s got to stand up and say that’s not reasonable.”

Blais, of Patriot Fireworks, said he thinks many of these complaints result from miscommunication or misunderstanding. For example, he said, a local woman once complained about fireworks landing in her field, and as she described it, Blais said he recognized it as a model rocket from Walmart, not a consumer firework.

“Most complaints I hear about, people are already breaking existing laws,” Blais said. “People need to realize, if somebody is breaking the law, they have to call police so they can keep accurate records of how many complaints there are.”

Craig Crosby — 621-5642

[email protected]


A new petition seeks to limit the use of fireworks in Monmouth:

* It would be allowed only 10 days during the year — the holidays and corresponding weekends of Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, Labor Day and New Year’s Eve.

* It would be allowed only from 5 until 10 p.m. except on the Fourth of July and New Year’s Eve, when it would be permitted until midnight.

* It would be prohibited any day when the forest fire danger is a Class 4 or 5.

* It would be prohibited within 50 feet of any combustible structure.

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