FAIRFIELD — After next week’s election, two of the three councilors who voted in favor of an ordinance that restricts fireworks usage to five days of the year will no longer be on the council, leaving the fate of the five-day rule uncertain.

The fireworks issue has been the focus of three public hearings that have drawn strongly worded comments from people on both sides of the issue.

Town Manager Josh Reny said that, while he considers the fireworks ordinance to be a relatively minor issue, it has taken up a lot of the town government’s time.

Council member Tom Munson called the five-day ordinance imperfect but he said that it’s been difficult to find a compromise between two vocal and polarized groups.

He said fireworks advocates believe they have a right to set off fireworks without restrictions, while opponents believe they have a right to not be subjected to the fireworks’ noise.

There’s little middle ground between the positions and with fireworks enthusiasts vowing to bring the issue before the town again, the five-day rule’s future is uncertain after November’s election changes the five-member council.

Munson and Ed Finch, two of the three councilors who voted to pass the five-day law in October, are leaving the council. Donald Giroux, who abstained from the vote, is also leaving.

Robert Sezak, the third councilor who voted for the five-day ordinance that passed 3-1 with one abstention, first attempted to loosen the restrictions by introducing amendments. Sezak and Harold Murray, who voted against the ordinance, will remain on the council.

Most of the candidates who would replace Munson, Finch and Giroux favor a less strict regulation than the five-day rule.

One seat will likely be filled by Tracey Stevens, an uncontested candidate for the one year remaining on Munson’s three-year term. Stevens said she favors allowing fireworks for 19 days of the year, an option that was proposed by a task force on the issue but rejected by the council this summer.

Stevens said that she is guided by the will of the majority of residents who speak on the issue, rather than her own opinion.

Among the field of five candidates for the other two seats, Matt Petrie, Aaron Rowden and Skip Tompkins all said they would favor a law that allows more fireworks use.

Petrie said that he shares some of the concerns about fireworks-related noise but he would favor a compromise that was less restrictive than the five-day law.

“I live right in town and quite a few neighbors are constantly firing them off and it does create a disturbance at night,” he said.

Petrie said he would support a permit that would allow people to shoot fireworks off at special events, such as weddings.

Rowden and Tompkins echoed the arguments of fireworks advocates who say they would like to see fireworks allowed in rural areas of town and restricted in the more densely populated urban area.

“I see no reason why they should be more strictly controlled than firearms or industrial farm equipment,” Rowden said.

Tompkins agreed.

“I think that would be sort of like a firearms law,” he said. “That’s where I would come down on that.”

Only one candidate, John Picchiotti, said he supports the current ordinance.

Picchiotti said that he felt the work that went into the existing law should be given some weight.

“They seem to have come up with a plan,” he said. “They held several workshops on it and they talked to a lot of people. The process was good.”

Candidate Michael Taylor said that he is open to changing or keeping the five-day law, depending on what he hears from his constituents.

“What does the majority of the town want?” he said. “This is a democracy. I’m not going in with any preconceived notion of ‘let’s do it this way.'”

Outgoing council member Munson said that the candidates who are supportive of unlimited fireworks usage in rural Fairfield might adopt a more moderate view once they’re elected.

“You have an opinion, but you have to temper it with what the community wants,” he said. “Once they’re on the council and they have hearings and they listen to people, they might say ‘it seemed simple before but now I’ve learned more.'”

Reny and Munson both said that they state lawmakers made a mistake last year by passing a law that gives communities limitless options on fireworks regulation.

The tumult in Fairfield, which has included police calls, angry comments at public hearings and divisive board votes, is being repeated in communities across the state, said Reny.

“It is my opinion that the people in Augusta and the governor threw this on the communities,” Munson said. “My hope is that the state will come up with a unified policy for this.”

Matt Hongoltz-Hetling — 861-9287
[email protected]

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