EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

October 17, 2012

Selectmen decline to act on fireworks regulations

By John Toole jtoole@eagletribune.com
The Eagle-Tribune

---- — PELHAM — Selectmen won’t ban or restrict fireworks for now.

Last night they ended weeks of consideration of putting limits on fireworks in the aftermath of a Fourth of July neighborhood show that injured 13 people, some seriously.

The board took no formal vote, but discussion showed a 3-2 split.

Chairman William McDevitt, Douglas Viger and Robert Haverty opposed putting a permit system in place, expressing concerns about whether it could effectively be enforced and if trying to do so would burden police and firefighters.

Ed Gleason, who had relatives injured in the accident, strongly supported permitting, and Hal Lynde also was willing to consider it.

Instead, the board will let Viger consult with fireworks companies to see if they will assist with a community education program to head off future injuries.

McDevitt left open the possibility selectmen still could pursue time limits on fireworks through Town Meeting. But it was uncertain they will do so. He also made clear townspeople also could pursue fireworks restrictions on their own through Town Meeting.

After the July 3 incident some townspeople privately encouraged selectmen to ban fireworks. But at a hearing two weeks ago, nobody spoke in favor of a ban and selectmen conceded last night there is little support for one.

Fireworks enthusiasts who attended the hearing did indicate they could accept a permitting system. Gleason sees permitting as a way to make sure people are being safe. “It’s not onerous. It’s not prohibiting people from having fun,” Gleason said.

Viger acknowledged he sees the value in permitting, but isn’t prepared to pursue it yet. “I don’t think we’re at the point where we have a handle on how to enforce it,” he said. McDevitt agreed. “I have a great concern about our ability to enforce,” he said.

Fireworks of a different kind disrupted the meeting. McDevitt called a recess when an earthquake rumbled through the region.

When the chairman reconvened the meeting after about 15 minutes he announced there were no immediate reports of any damage around town.

But the public safety dispatch center was getting calls from all over town from people surprised by the quake, which was centered in Maine, officials said.