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A shopper leaves Phantom Fireworks in Londonderry with a large assortment of pyrotechnics in this Union Leader file photo. (Union Leader)

Local fireworks ordinance is confusing and difficult to enforce say Windham officials suggesting a new approach

WINDHAM — As another summer season rolls around, Windham town officials are considering rescinding the town's fireworks ordinance.

Though voters at the March 2014 Town Meeting will have the final say, police and fire officials told the Board of Selectmen Monday night that the town's current ordinance dictating the use of fireworks is difficult to enforce and also difficult for residents to navigate.

Fire Chief Tom McPherson said he and Police Chief Gerald Lewis recently met with the town's policy committee and concluded that an online fireworks bulletin, with direct links to information on state laws and lists of permissible fireworks, might be a more effective solution.

"The information we have in the current ordinance isn't really enforceable," McPherson said, noting much time was spent poring over ordinances from other communities around the state.

The fire chief said he supported replacing the town's current ordinance with a bulletin because "it's more informative."

"It would allow individuals to instantly get the knowledge of what they can and cannot use," McPherson said.

Right now, Windham's fireworks ordinance, which was adopted at the March 1989 town meeting, states that the use and sale of Class C fireworks is prohibited in town, though the ordinance's wording could confuse many as the fireworks that are considered "Class C" aren't clearly defined.

The state Division of Fire Safety defines "Class C" fireworks as "consumer fireworks, excluding firecrackers, bottle rockets and any device that produces solely smoke."

However, NH RSA 160-C:6 gives local municipalities the option of allowing or prohibiting the sale and display of fireworks as they see fit. Such decisions must be made through a legislative or citizen vote under the current RSA.

Should the changes to Windham's fireworks laws pass before town meeting voters this spring, the bulletin would be posted on the town, police and fire department websites.

"Everything would be hyperlinked, so people could go online and be directed to the state websites and read the RSAs for themselves," McPherson said. "It would allow people to very easily understand what we allow and what we don't."

Selectmen supported the chief's suggestion.

"This just makes more sense," Selectman Ross McLeod said. "This would allow people to clearly understand what's permitted and what isn't."

McPherson said the new bulletin would be drafted prior to town meeting, keeping in mind any recent changes to the state laws regulating fireworks.

"I think we're headed in the right direction," Town Administrator David Sullivan

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