EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

October 3, 2012

No support at Pelham hearing for fireworks ban

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

---- — PELHAM — Residents last night appealed to selectmen to refrain from banning fireworks.

Selectmen are considering regulations after a fireworks accident injured 13 people at a residence in town this summer. Some suffered serious burns.

Townspeople, speaking at public hearing on the issue, acknowledged the incident was tragic. “It was terrible. But as far as banning, I don’t think that is the way to go,” Sean Piemonte said. Piemonte told selectmen he puts on neighborhood fireworks shows, but takes safety precautions.

More than a dozen people attended the hourlong hearing. None supported a ban.

Selectmen’s chairman William McDevitt acknowledged some townspeople have asked the board to ban fireworks since the accident. But none of those people spoke last night.

Most of the speakers said they could accept town regulation of fireworks through a permitting process. “I believe we should have some sort of permit requirement,” Susan Boucher said. Inconsiderate neighbors have set off fireworks as late as 2 in the morning, she told selectmen.

But even Boucher doesn’t want the town to stop private fireworks displays. “I’m not asking to totally ban fireworks,” she said.

Jay Tropea asked selectmen not to act too hastily in response to the accident. A permit process would be a good start, he said, but cautioned, “I don’t think we can legislate common sense.”

Lisa and Christopher Laforge told selectmen they do fireworks displays, don’t support a ban but could accept some regulation such as time restrictions or a safety list. “I don’t think people should put off fireworks at 2 o’clock,” Lisa Laforge said.

Some residents were concerned about selectmen going too far, Sean Murphy warning that overreacting to tragedy is “a very slippery slope.”

Others emphasized personal responsibility. “There are people who are responsible with everything. Other people are not,” Mike Carrier said.

Selectman Ed Gleason questioned residents whether fireworks safety education would help. They told him they believed it would. “I’m definitely for education,” Mark Thibeault said. “A lot of this comes down to common sense.”

Dennis LaBrecque agreed. He said he would rather see his tax dollars go to education than a permitting process he predicted would be unsuccessful.

McDevitt assured residents selectmen haven’t made a decision about what action, if any, to take.

That appeared to be the case. Selectman Bob Haverty conceded he’s unsure the town can solve the safety problem with a permit or ordinance, while Selectman Hal Lynde asked residents what the board should do about those who are irresponsible and pose trouble for themselves and others.

More discussion with the police and fire chiefs is expected at an Oct. 16 meeting.