Fireworks complaints reverberate from Greenwood neighborhoods
“I served a year in the Marines in Vietnam and heard and saw all the 'fireworks' that I wanted,” wrote Charlie Newell.
“When I hear fireworks today, I don't have flashbacks nor do I dive for cover. I know where I am, know that I am safe and that a time in my life is in the past.
“My concern here is for those veterans who have had similar experiences and may not have those events so clearly out of their minds as I do.
“I worry about how fireworks affect them and am also concerned that they might not speak out about it. A lot of veterans don't like to talk about such things and even though they are bothered, might not say so.
“Fireworks and artillery are certainly different,” Newell said, “but the sounds can, in some cases, be quite similar.”
Newell, who lives on Johnny's Bridge Road in Locke Mills, was writing to express that concern to Greenwood selectmen.
He was joined last week by residents from several Greenwood neighborhoods, including the Knoll, Hayes Hill, Patch Mountain, Greenwood and Schoolhouse roads, and Alpine Shores Drive.
All wrote, or turned out for last week's selectmen's meeting, to express their own concerns, which ranged from lost sleep to a damaged local economy.
Kris Wilner (Hayes Hill Road) said her family had already been affected by the former.
“I have a 12-year-old son who was unable to sleep on a school night because of fireworks being shot off between 10 and 10:30 on a week night,” she said.
“He has to get up by 6 a.m. to get to school. My husband and I also frequently must wake at early hours to go to our jobs -- sometimes as early as 3 to 3:30 a.m.
“Fireworks being launched late into the night on weekdays have kept us up on several occasions.”
Joan Kintz of Patch Mountain seconded that concern, and also expressed her own frustration with the lack of response by the Oxford County Sheriff's Department.
She said she and her companion had documented fireworks since June 21, “and there have been fireworks every day. Twice it has been well past 10 o'clock, and some have been too big to be legal. “The sheriff does not want to respond to fireworks, so we have no recourse. ”
She argued that a town ordinance banning or restricting the use of fireworks might improve enforcement.
On that point Selectman Amy Chapman was sympathetic but skeptical.
“My only concern is whether we would get any real enforcement,” she said. “A lot of what people are calling about is already illegal. It's after 10, they're using them on other people's private property, or they're using them on public property, but it seems the Sheriff's Department and even the state police [who alternate coverage of Greenwood], are pretty maxed out, so I don't know if it would do any good.”
Ruth Blakney, of Round Pond, worried about the potentially negative impact economic of fireworks -- despite what Maine's currrent governor has claimed.
“People who are thinking about coming to Maine and read a blog that says 'I was there and I couldn't get a decent night's sleep,' won't come.
“It's detrimental to tourism,” Chapman said, “and we have a lot of rental properties in this town.”
Blakney argued that if Greenwood were to ban fireworks it could have a positive effect similar to the 1998 ban on jet skis.
“I think the fact that we banned the jet skis so quickly has been a real boon to us, and I think we need to get on board and be one of the early towns on this,” she said.
Blakey also worried about fireworks-sparked fires.
“They're shooting them off toward my property, and I worry about the residual stuff coming down and setting the woods on fire.”
Selectman Arnie Jordan added his own concern – loons.
“As soon as the 'bangs' start going off, the loons start going kind of crazy,” he said.
The selectman ultimately agreed to study ordinances other communities had come up with, either banning fireworks totally or restricting their use to certain days and times.
They said they would use that information to come up with a proposal to bring to a public hearing, where voters could discuss, and if they chose, amend the proposal.
If residents' overall reactions at the meeting were positive, the proposal would then go to a special town meeting, where voters have the opportunity to make an up-or-down decision on whether or not Greenwood will have a fireworks ordinance.
'And now we're seeing.'
Early in last week's meeting the selectmen were asked why they had not acted sooner on the fireworks problem.
“I think one of the reasons why we haven't adopted anything to this point is that from the beginning we were waiting to see if there was a problem -- rather than rush into it, to take a wait-and-see attitude.
“And now we're seeing.”