KENNEBUNK, Maine — Selectmen will hold a public hearing Oct. 22 about the proposed fines for violators of the town’s new ban on displaying and releasing balloons.
The hearing will be a part of the selectmen’s meeting at Kennebunk Town Hall at 1 Summer St. at 6:30 p.m.
Voters approved the balloon ordinance at the annual Town Meeting in June. To date, fines for violations have not yet been established.
The Selectmen Ordinance Committee is proposing fines of $25 for first offenses, $50 for second and $100 for third. At an Oct. 8 meeting, Selectman Shiloh Schulte, who serves on the committee, said that the proposed $100 fine seems “to be roughly in line with the state fine for littering.”
Changes to the town’s ordinance fee schedule, which outlines fines for various levels of violations, do not require a Town Meeting vote and instead can be made by selectmen, following a public hearing.
The ban’s favorable vote in June had a clear margin, 852 to 376.
“No person will knowingly or intentionally release balloons or cause balloons to be released at any outdoor celebration, promotional activity, sporting or other event, or in any public building,” the ordinance reads. “No person shall cause or allow a fixed exterior display of balloons.”
The ordinance does not apply to balloons that are used in the community by any governmental or scientific institution for scientific or meteorological purposes, hot air balloons that are recovered after launching or balloons that are used or released indoors only in a privately-owned building that is not leased to the town.
Will Jones, a recent graduate of Kennebunk High School, spearheaded the ordinance, which he first proposed to selectmen as a senior. Jones called the measure an important step in protecting the environment and marine life.
Jones worked alongside the selectmen’s committee to craft the ordinance. In the summer of 2018, he presented to selectmen a slide show illustrating his concerns about balloons — about how, when they are released and eventually pop, they fall onto land and into the ocean, polluting both, and putting wildlife and marine life that ingest them at risk. During his presentation, Jones cited the Consumer Products Safety Commission and its assertion that balloons pose a risk to children.
“Balloons are the number-one cause of death in children under the age of 12,” Jones told selectmen. “That’s asphyxiation death, and that’s above all other toys.”