MONMOUTH — Voters will decide in November whether to limit fireworks use in town to certain days.

Selectmen on Wednesday accepted a petition with more than 330 certified signatures that would, if passed by voters, prohibit using fireworks except around five yearly holidays and punish violators with fines up to $1,500.

“I would certainly put my name behind it and recommend it,” said Selectman Darlene Sanborn.

The petition, circulated by residents Kent Ackley and Rebecca Stanley, limits fireworks use to 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., July 3-5, Dec. 31 and Jan. 1, and the three days of Memorial and Labor Day weekends.

The ordinance, which also prohibits fireworks use when the fire danger is class 4 or 5, does not restrict fireworks sales. Monmouth is home to a fireworks store.

Board members voted 4-0 — Selectman Harold Jones was absent — to include the warrant article question on the Nov. 6 ballot. A public hearing will be scheduled for before the election.

The board also voted 3-1 to endorse passage of the question. Selectman Timothy McDonald, who said the board should make no recommendation, voted against the motion.

Fire Chief Dan Roy, at the request of selectmen and Town Manager Curtis Lunt, came to the meeting with an ordinance proposal that would have limited fireworks use to 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. every Saturday and allowe their use the three-day Memorial and Labor day weekends as well as Dec. 31, Jan. 1 and July 3-5. The curfew would have been extended to midnight on Dec. 31 and July 4.

Selectmen rejected McDonald’s idea of adding Roy’s ordinance to the ballot to give voters a choice between it and the one drafted by Ackley and Stanley.

Selectman Douglas Ludewig said it would be unfair to petitioners for the board to include its own proposal.

“I would put a third option on the ballot asking for a total ban,” Ludewig said. “It would be much simpler.”

Resident Edward Phillips argued that the town will be responsible for enforcing any ordinance it decides to enact. If a resident opts to go to court rather than pay the fine, the town will likely have to hire an attorney to prosecute the case, because the district attorney’s office will not act on violations of local ordinances. Residents will have to testify against neighbors in court, Phillips said, and judges are likely to hand out a $1,500 fine for a civil violation. Phillips said fireworks were so prevalent this summer because of the novelty of being able to use them legally for the first time in decades. Use has already dwindled, he said.

“I believe the novelty’s over,” Phillips said. “Don’t do things that are going to cost the town money just because you don’t like the bang.”

McDonald floated the idea of delaying action on the petition and instituting a moratorium that would limit the use of fireworks that make noise to holidays. The town then could craft an ordinance to address the most common complaints, which typically involve disturbance of the peace and jittery animals.

Stanley, however, declined to accept a delay in action on the petition.

“We expect, as do the 355 people who signed it, an up or down vote,” she said.

The town now relies on state law, which allows fireworks use from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily — 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.

Sanborn said she tried to talk to as many residents as possible to gauge their view of fireworks use in town.

“It’s pretty clear to me there were more people on the side of doing something rather than not doing something,” she said. “Based on that I think we need to move forward.”

Craig Crosby — 621-5642

[email protected]

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