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Fireworks get an earlier curfew in Sanbornton

July 08, 2009
SANBORNTON — Residents were invited to a public hearing during the Sanbornton selectboard meeting last week as the Fireworks Ordinance was being reviewed.

Fire Chief John DeSilva said safety is always a concern with fireworks.

"When you look at the dangers, " said DeSilva, "I would obviously like them banned, but I realize that is not going to happen."

Fireworks, he told the selectmen, can burn at 1200 degrees and cause third degree burns. In the wrong hands, or used carelessly, this becomes a concern for safety personnel who are then called to respond to accidents.

Resident Louisa Simpson brought an impassioned plea to the selectmen.

Two years ago she had written a letter to the board asking that the issue of the fireworks ordinance be re-addressed and she read from a statement that night, once again asking for a ban on the recreational explosives. Living near Hermit Lake, she said, many of her neighbors are part-time, not realizing that vacation time for them is not always vacation time for year-round residents. In fact, she said, the night prior to last Wednesday's meeting, she and her husband were kept awake by vacationers on the lake with fireworks.

"I have called and reported the noise to our police department," she read from her statement, "and they have been willing to go out and try to find the perpetrators, but with so many transient occupants and no one house causing the noise every time it is not always possible to pinpoint the household causing the noise."

Fellow Sanbornton resident Kathleen Fogarty and her husband Bruce echoed Simpson's sentiments, saying that their dog has been traumatized so much by the loud noise they have had to have him on medication.

"Plenty of other animals are bothered by this, " Fogarty said. "People don't respect the fact that this happens. They're having a good time. We're not."

Chairman of the Select Board Dave Nickerson agreed that he has been affected by fireworks as well but has discussed the problem with the neighbors. As a horse owner, he said he could appreciate the fact that fireworks are indeed upsetting to animals.

"I try to be neighborly," he said. "I've gone over the next day and told them that I have to get up in the morning and would appreciate it if that didn't happen again, rather than call the police."

Steve Ober of the select board said he heard the residents loud and clear. While a few residents were present to say they hate to see bans instituted, Ober agreed that if he lived in the Hermit Lake area, where much of the noise occurs, he would be upset as well.

"I feel sorry for the folks who are suffering," Ober said.

Bill Whalen of Sanbornton agreed but thought that a permit, ensuring an adult was on the premises to be responsible, would still allow for the enjoyment of fireworks but hold someone accountable if it got out of hand or disturbed others. Responsible places for display fireworks, like Steele Hill, should be allowed to continue with the family enjoyment of a large display, but allowing just anyone, particularly people on vacation who may have had a bit too much to drink, should be stopped, he said.

Nickerson, however, was opposed to taking away too many freedoms and rights. He said he had a hard time banning anything further in the town that might take away pleasure from responsible people.

Simpson's husband, Craig, spoke up to point out that often times this resulted in a loss of his rights when irresponsible people kept everyone awake.

The selectmen finally agreed to an amendment of the current ordinance, stating fireworks were permissible between the hours of 11 a.m. and 9:30 p.m. with the exception of legal displays such as the one at Steele Hill. The ordinance had previously specified 11 p.m. as a cut-off time. They further added that these explosives be kept under the control of a person 21 years of age or older or an enlisted serviceman or reservist aged 18 or above.

The revisions took place immediately and the police department was notified of the changes. Signs will be posted to alert residents.

"If this doesn't work down the road," Nickerson said, "we can revisit the issue."

The Fogartys and Simpsons had hoped for a ban to be instituted but agreed that steps had been made to rectify the problem and they were pleased the select board listened to their issues.

"It's a step in the right direction at least," Kathleen Fogarty said after the hearing. "We'll see how it goes."

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