GILFORD — Selectmen last night voted two to one to eliminate the total ban on non-commercial grade fireworks, a move that may lead to a referendum at the 2015 annual town meeting.
The vote was held after a public hearing in which about seven people spoke against lifting the ban that's been in place since 1988. One person spoke for eliminating the ban.
School Board member Jack Landow, who lives in what he said was a wooded area, said that putting explosives in the hands of untrained individuals doesn't make a lot of sense.
"Those same folks are as high as their Roman candles," he said. "I implore you to maintain the ban and enforce it."
Speaking for eliminating the ban was Chris Ray, who noted there are lots of dangerous things in the world like driving a car, guns and snow boarding but it wasn't the job of the government to protect everybody from everything that can possible hurt them.
A retired Marine, Ray said his family has safely enjoyed fireworks for years and always invites and informs the neighbors when they will be displaying them — usually on the Fourth of July.
He said he supports Gilford new ordinance that sets time limits on when fireworks can be displayed but, overall, also supports overturning the total ban.
Laconia City Councilor Armand Bolduc owns property in Gilford and he urged the selectmen to keep the ban in place. He told a story recently that involves what he said were fireworks, his buffalo herd and his dry fields and said he thinks the non-professional use of them should be banned.
"If you can't enforce it, get more people to enforce it," he said.
Governor's Island resident David Haley, who told the board that for him to come to a meeting it had to be important, said that he opposes lifting the ban because most people don't like fireworks.
After relating his own horror story about fireworks use by out-of-state visitors, he said that people from "Massachusetts and Rhode Island think they can do what they want, apparently violating ordinances."
As to overturning the ordinance, he said that a lot of people don't thinks it's a good idea.
Chairman John O'Brien has been a steadfast supporter of Gilford's fireworks ban. He read a letter from former Selectman Kevin Hayes who said he was "appalled" that the issue of fireworks came up so soon after the composition of the board changed and that none of the three selectmen were elected with any mandate.
Replying to Hayes, Selectman Richard Grenier said that he didn't run for selectman for the express purpose of overturning the fireworks ban. He said he knew it was going to come up sooner or later and decided to bring the matter up now.
The third selectmen, Gus Benevides, has long been opposed to any outright ban on fireworks though he does support restricting the hours of display. When the board voted in 2013 to continue with the ban, he voted against it.
Aside from Grenier's response to Hayes's letter, selectmen had no discussion after the public hearing and went straight to an up-or-down vote.
After the vote, O'Brien said that as a private citizen, he would likely work to get some kind of petition to ban or regulate fireworks that he hopes will be placed before the voters in 2015 at annual Town Meeting.