Green Mountain Fireworks co-owner Matt Lavigne says business is a bit better than last year.
The temporary fireworks tent on Route 7 in Milton, which has been up and running since the end of May in the Checkerberry district, has continued to draw customers looking to stock up on their favorite fireworks.
“The weather has not been our friend,” Lavigne said. “I’m sure business would be a lot better without the rain, but that’s just how it goes with fireworks.”
Some of his bestsellers – standard fireworks and bottle rockets – continue to be a hit, and for people looking for something with more pizazz, reloadable shell mortar kits tend to be among the most popular, Lavigne said.
After spending last summer operating in St. Albans, Lavigne said he and co-owner William Kirk had a good idea of what items are most popular with customers, and Lavigne said he wasn’t surprised by which products were well liked.
Although they had originally planned on packing up the tables each night and putting them in the two locked storage containers kept on the 11-acre plot, Lavigne decided it would be easier if he slept in a camper a couple yards behind the tent as an extra security measure, like he did in St. Albans last year.
Many of the additional security features are also holdovers from last summer. Lavigne, who used to work as an alarm technician, has a series of alarms both inside and outside the main tent, as well as motion sensors on the backside.
Game trail cameras are mounted around the premises, and when he’s at work, Lavigne also serves as the business’ armed guard, wearing a visible, holstered sidearm on his hip.
Although he said Green Mountain Fireworks has not had security issues, Lavigne said he’s verbally warned people walking through the property at night on a couple occasions.
The operators also give customers packets of safety information, including state fireworks statutes regarding permits, penalties and seizures, proper disposal instructions and other various rules.
“We want to make sure people do them safely and follow the law,” Lavigne said. “So we make them sign under the safety guidelines, make a copy of their ID here, and we make them sign saying they are going to be safe.”
The packet also includes the town permitting form that must be signed by the applicant and approved and signed by fire chief and interim town manager Don Turner and police chief Brett Van Noordt before fireworks can be legally discharged in Milton.
Although people can purchase fireworks without a permit, they cannot legally use them until they secure a permit – a process Turner sees as flawed.
“It’s a state statute that needs to be fixed. It doesn’t make any sense. Consumers aren’t at fault; it’s the way the law is,” he said.
When reviewing a permit application, Turner said he makes sure the applicant has the proper liability insurance and gets a copy of the policy. Although the form asks for a bond in principal of a specified amount to cover potential damage from firework use, Turner said the town does not usually require a bond.
The police chief, according to Turner, looks over a map of the location where the applicant has requested to use fireworks.
“We want to have an idea where things are going off so if there is an issue, we know where to go,” he said. “There could be an injury or damage to people’s property.”
Although he said he has not received any complaints specifically about Green Mountain Fireworks, Turner noted he has gotten several complaints from residents concerned about fireworks being used illegally, as well as late at night, in the past couple months.
“By the time we get notified, it’s too late,” he said. “It’s a challenging situation right now.”
Lavigne said his business has also gotten complaints from people saying they believe fireworks are being discharged on the property Green Mountain Fireworks is using – a claim he flatly denies.
“That’s never happened, and it never will,” he said. “I see them around but never on the property.”
As of Tuesday afternoon, Turner said he has signed one consumer fireworks permit this year. Last year, he said the town approved between five and seven permits.
Green Mountain Firework’s conditional use permit is set to expire on August 31, and Lavigne said he would like to get a similar permit in the same location, or one nearby, next year.