Residents of Benton will decide next month whether the town should impose a fireworks ordinance, limiting the use by the public to the Fourth of July.

The ordinance, drafted by selectmen Monday night, calls for a ban on fireworks throughout the year, except on July 4, when the use of consumer fireworks will be permitted from 9 a.m to 12:30 a.m. July 5.

Residents will vote on the ordinance at a special town meeting on Monday, Aug. 11.

Rhonda Ames, of Neck Road, said Tuesday the issue isn’t so much the sound and explosion factor — although she said she has issues when her neighbors light them off at 2 a.m. — but her family’s safety and debris.

“We have people on the side of us, about 100 feet, lighting off fireworks and the remnants are landing on our roof and yard,” Ames said. “It’s not that I’m against them, I just think there needs to be an ordinance and there has to be a certain distance between the neighbors. It’s an issue of safety and respect for those around you.”

The proposed ordinance in Benton states that “aerial fireworks displays shall not be ignited within 100 feet of any neighboring structure not owned by the user, and ground fireworks displays shall not be ignited within 25 feet of any neighboring structure, unless the user has gained permission from the property owner.”

State Fire Marshal Joseph Thomas said he’s heard concerns generally from property owners near where fireworks are being legally set off, but the law doesn’t include language limiting the use of fireworks when they are a nuisance to people with homes and businesses nearby.

He said people have concerns about fireworks launched from one property dropping debris on another and, “Personally, I’ve fielded a few calls about people concerned about livestock.”

Thomas said the debris is mostly pieces of cardboard packaging and isn’t a fire hazard after it drops from the sky.

Benton’s ordinance, according to selectman Antoine Morin, comes after an increase in complaints over the past month. There were nine complaints from June 11 to July 7 logged at the Town Office.

“We’ve had complaints since the inception of legalized fireworks, and we wanted to let it ride and see if the complaints or use died down,” Morin said Tuesday morning. “The ordinance is in response to multiple residential complaints. The Selectboard felt putting it to voters and have a simple majority was the best way to go. The thinking is to present the ordinance as very black-and-white and have the two passionate sides show up and decide.”

For the past two years, since the ban on fireworks was lifted statewide, Benton has operated under the state law, which permits fireworks use year-round from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., with expanded hours on Independence Day and New Year’s Eve. The state law also states that fireworks must be used on one’s own property, unless granted permission from another property owner. No one under 21 years old can buy, possess or furnish fireworks.

Several communities throughout central Maine have already enacted local fireworks ordinances.

Some have specific times and places for the lawful use of fireworks, while others have enacted an outright ban. Fireworks allowed by state law can be used in any community that has not adopted its own fireworks ordinance.

The town meeting, which will include public discussion followed by a vote, is scheduled for Monday, Aug. 11, at 6 p.m. at the Benton Town Office.

Jesse Scardina — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @jessescardina

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