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Woodstock receives fireworks petition

Woodstock selectmen Tuesday received a petition asking for a ban on fireworks.
The seven-signature petition was submitted by Don McInnis.
It asks for a ban, but continues, “At a minimum, we would like to have you consider banning them within 300 yards of a lake or pond,” noting that a lake acts as an “echo chamber,” causing the sound to reverberate.
Petitioners said on the nights of July 3 and 4, “fireworks seemed to be going off from four or five locations simulataneously around Bryant Pond. It almost seemed like we were in a war zone.”
Town officials said that while complaints earlier in the summer centered around Lake Christopher and North Pond, there have been more recent complaints about fireworks noise from camp owners on Concord and Shagg ponds.
“For me it’s starting to rise to a level of maybe we ought to have a real serious discussion about this,” said Selectman Ron Deegan.
“I think the time is the big thing,” said Rick Young, who lives on Lake Christopher. He said fireworks there often don’t start until 9:30 p.m., stop around 10 and then start again at 10:30 – past the state law deadline of 10 p.m. “I was hoping the newness would wear off,” he added.
Deegan asked Fire Chief Geff Inman’s opinion.
“The Legislature let the cat out of the bag on this, and they’re the ones who are going to have to put it back in,” he said, adding that local enforcement would be very expensive and nearly impossible.
Selectman Steve Bies said pond residents have pointed out that years ago, an ordinance against jet skis was approved without specific enforcement behind it, but the move was enough to stop use of the craft.
“It becomes public knowledge and people are shamed into it,” he said.
But, countered Inman, “You can probably hunt down a jet skier. Once fireworks go off, no one will take responsibility.”
Town Manager Vern Maxfield said later that while the number of signatures on the petition does not automatically require action from selectmen, they will likely discuss at their next meeting whether to pursue an ordinance.
Wind ordinance committee
The board also met with members of the Woodstock Wind Ordinance Committee for an update on their work in writing a new ordinance to guide future wind projects.
Chairman Bob Elliott said the committee is on track to present a final draft of an ordinance to the board before the next selectmen’s meeting on Sept. 18.
Members of the two groups also sought to clear the air regarding comments at an August selectmen’s meeting that the wind committee had lost focus on its goal, and was being sidetracked by wind project opponents.
Elliott cited repeated efforts by the committee to solicit public opinion on its efforts. “I think we’ve made a good faith effort to get the word out to invite wide public input,” he said.
He also said the committee is not anti-wind, but simply believes from its research that stricter sound regulations should be put in place in the future to protect citizens.
Elliott said that while the group of citizens currently affected by the existing Spruce Mountain Wind project is not large, “they are the people who are bearing the brunt of it. We should be about watching after all of our people.”
He characterized the recommendations the committee is working on as “moderate” compared to other towns in Maine.
The committee plans to discuss its final ordinance draft at the board’s Sept. 18 meeting.
In other business at Tuesday’s meeting, selectmen:
Agreed to craft an article within a month for a town meeting vote to open the lower portion of the Billings Hill Road to winter maintenance, to be done through town bid;
Accepted a bid of $1,726 from Betty Young of West Paris for the Fire Department’s old 1990 squad truck;
Learned that work on the Shackley Hill and Concord Pond roads has been completed;
Learned the town has collected 67 percent of taxes owed, for a total of $1.4 million, and has used $27,000 to pay for discounts for early payment.