AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Last year, for the first time in recent memory, fireworks were once again allowed to be sold and used in Maine, but almost as soon as the law changed, complaints about noise and concerns over safety began pouring in to law enforcement officials and legislators.
Now, nearly a year to the day the first store selling fireworks here opened its doors, the legislature's Joint Standing Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety held a series of public hearings on five bills that seek to change the state's fireworks statutes.
One bill that has been introduced would repeal the law allowing them to be used and sold in Maine. Another seeks to make it a crime to set off fireworks near livestock. Two bills would impose new restrictions on when and where they could be used and another proposal would require people to get permits before they could use fireworks.
The proposed changes sparked lively debate, with many people speaking for and against the bills, though often the statements made had more to do with whether or not fireworks should be banned again or not.
Mark Norton made the drive up from New Gloucester to voice his concerns over the noise and nuisance he feels fireworks have created in his hometown.
"I think it was a big mistake," Norton said about allowing the sale and use of fireworks in Maine.
"It is a noise issue that I think effects a broad spectrum of the population," he continued. "It is not only elderly people, it is people who are ill and need a good night's sleep, those in the population that have to get up early in the morning and have to go to work, young children, pets, livestock and I have a couple of friends who are veterans who unfortunately suffer from PTSD, and it has become a real issue for people like that."
Some people testified about the impact loud fireworks have on wildlife and their own quality of life. Others mentioned how towns and cities are free to regulate the use of fireworks the way they see fit. Many people complained that there is little law enforcement can do to stop people who break the law.
Steve Marson, who owns five PyroCity Fireworks stores, says Maine is just experiencing growing pains as people become more educated about the proper way to use them and get over the initial excitement that they are legal here now. He says teaching people the right way to use them responsibly will help bring down the number of complaints.
"We haven't had fireworks on a consumer level for so many years that people don't know about them," explained Marson. "As a business, we have taken the position that it is our responsibility to educate the public, educate the consumer, and you are not going to be able to do everything in one year. We've only been open for six months."
State Fire Marshal Joe Thomas says there have been a few fires and injuries caused by fireworks over the past year, but he is not overly concerned by the situation, saying allowing fireworks didn't bring about armageddon. He is waiting for the final numbers to be compiled on the past year's fireworks related incidents before he will address the legislature later this week and provide his insight into how well the new law allowing fireworks has worked out.