Gilford will once again consider change to fireworks ban

GILFORD — Selectmen let off a few verbal explosives of their own last night while discussing whether or not to review the town ordinance that bans fireworks unless they are being launched by a professional company. But no action was taken.

Selectman Richard "Rags" Grenier said he was at the meeting held last year when the board put some teeth into the existing ban and was more inclined to agree with Selectmen Gus Benevides, who opposed a ban.

"I feel it's onerous for something that's legal," said Grenier.

Selectman John O'Brien, who has been the most vocal supporter of the ban as it exists now, said his position stemmed from a personal encounter with some Boston firefighters who rented the house next to him and they fired Roman candles over his house and property.

O'Brien said his biggest concern is fire and said "renters" come to Gilford and blow fireworks into dry woods.

He said several fire chiefs and the N.H. Fire Marshall have said a fire could spread very quickly in Gunstock Acres (where O'Brien lives) as well as in other parts of town where the buildings are very close together.

He also said some people go to bed early. At one point, he said that when he was 12, he thought fireworks were fun but as an adult he thinks using them unprofessionally is "immature."

Police Chief Anthony Bean Burpee said there was one summons issued of the 11 complaints he's gotten this year. Last year there was 26 calls and that was the highest amount in the few years of records he reviewed. He also wanted it noted that it rained on Fourth of July weekend this year.

He said the summons from this year occurred when police responded to a complaint and told the person to stop. Once police left, he said the person started firing them again so a summons was issued.

He said some of the people who use fireworks are not from the area and don't know Gilford has a ban. He had included a link on the Gilford website about the ban, hoping more visitors will understand the ordinance.

Bean Burpee also noted that enforcement is problematic and often times the police can't find the source of the complaint.

"My frustration is not being successful," he said.

Fire Chief Steve Carrier reiterated his position about the general danger of fireworks in non-professional hands and said he also would be somewhat uncomfortable with an ordinance that requires a permit because he wouldn't want to sign off on something that he, as a public safety officer, feels is dangerous.

Benevides sat quietly until the end of the discussion when he said his position on fireworks in Gilford is clear and he still opposes a ban.

"It's just the reality," he said, noting that when the Fourth of July comes around there are going to be fireworks.

"I'm not going to insult renters who bring a lot of money to town... and I'm not going to call them immature because they chose to light fireworks," he continued.

Twice O'Brien tried to interject something and twice Benevides reminded him he wasn't done speaking.

Benevides also reiterated his position that he wants the police on Friday and Saturday nights to be on the road preventing more serious crimes than shooting off fireworks, which he said are legal in the state and sold by in-state merchants to Gilford residents and visitors.

After going back and forth about what Grenier really wants to do, the board decided that there are a number of draft ordinances already prepared regarding fireworks, including some that allow them on certain days during certain times and others that would require a permit.

At Town Adminstrator Scott Dunn's urging, the board decided against forming a committee but chose to let Dunn and his administrative team review some of the previous suggested ordinances and bring one back to the board that could allow fireworks under certain circumstances.

At that point, selectmen said they would review the administration's suggestion and decide whether or not to hold a public hearing on a revised ordinance.