By MELINDA OVERSTREET
Glasgow Daily Times
A Glasgow City Council committee has decided to add some enforcement teeth to changes already proposed for the city’s ordinance on the use of fireworks.
First reading occurred two weeks ago of an updated ordinance that would specify the times and dates when fireworks can be used in the city limits and would require a permit for other times, but the council referred the matter to the Public Safety Committee for review and suggestions. The new ordinance is sponsored by council members Karalee Oldenkamp and Wendell Honeycutt.
The proposed update to the existing ordinance specifies that fireworks may only be “used, ignited, fired or exploded” during the following times on specific dates:
• between noon and 11 p.m. July 4,
• between noon and 10 p.m. June 25-July 3 and July 5-7, and
• after 11:30 p.m. Dec. 31 and midnight to 12:30 a.m. Jan. 1.
To use fireworks on other days, a permit is required from the Glasgow Fire Department. The permit would be valid for a four-hour period on the permitted date between noon and 10 p.m. The permit application has to be filed “no later than 15 days prior to the proposed use” and on a form provided by the city.
The committee called a special meeting Friday specifically to address the ordinance.
Committee Chairman Freddie Norris said the proposed updates “looked pretty good,” but he wondered whether all residents know where the city limits are. Mayor Rhonda Riherd Trautman said that if applicants are in doubt, they could check when filing the application.
GFD Chief Tony Atwood said state law regarding fireworks designates two types – consumer and display – with the latter requiring a professional with a bond and certification from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. These changes to the city ordinance need to be consistent with those designations and better distinguish between the requirements for each.
Atwood said GFD is usually involved in display fireworks applications, and there was further discussion about which city department should handle the permits for consumer fireworks, which any adult can purchase. He later said he didn’t mind having his office handle them.
Oldenkamp said the main purpose of the update is to specify the usage times, because many residents complained last year about firework noise long before and after the holidays, and at all hours.
At one point, the suggestion was made that consumer fireworks should only be allowed on the dates specified and to ditch the permit process altogether for the rest of the year.
James “Happy” Neal said he liked the timeframes as initially presented for the first reading, and no one raised any real objection to those, although there was some discussion regarding extending the days for the New Year’s holiday to match the dates through which seasonal vendors can sell them, which is Jan. 4.
“I feel like we need to be a little more specific with the wording … ,” Oldenkamp said. “The ordinance is no good if the public can’t understand it.”
She also asked whether a permit fee should be charged, because the permit process was going to create more work, but Atwood said he thought that may deter people from bothering to get the permit.
Trautman asked how the ordinance would be enforced.
Turcotte suggested a graduated scale, starting with a written warning. From there, a first offense would have a $50 civil fine, with $100 fine for the second offense and $200 for the third time.
A fourth offense could result in a misdemeanor criminal charge, which can carry a penalty of up to 30 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $500, he said.
“It puts it in the court’s hands instead of the city’s,” Turcotte said.
No one objected, and Trautman said the city’s code enforcement officer would have the authority to enforce the ordinance in addition to law enforcement officers.
Turcotte also suggested a component be added to address the mess frequently left behind from fireworks, noting the street sweeper collects tons of material and that no one is supposed to be using fireworks in the street anyway.
Neal said he thought that would be too difficult to enforce because no one would want to claim responsibility after the fact.
Turcotte said they might not be able to catch everyone on the littering aspect, but if officers happen to have been through at the time the fireworks were happening, it wouldn’t be that difficult to identify who was responsible.
Trautman said she thought trying to enforce the cleanup would be “futile.”
The panel agreed, though, to include wording in the ordinance to encourage cleanup.
When the second reading of the ordinance comes up during Monday’s 7 p.m. meeting of the full council, Oldenkamp is expected to suggest the revisions the committee discussed.