Council to decide on overturning fireworks ban

January 21, 2011 at 9:18 am  | Mobile Reader | Pring this storyPrint 

The St. Charles Parish Council will vote on whether or not to allow both the sale and popping of fireworks inside parish limits at their Jan. 24 meeting.

Fireworks were banned in St. Charles Parish in a 1992 ordinance, largely because of the danger they presented to nearby industry. However, Councilman Paul Hogan says that the ban on fireworks causes the parish to miss out on much-needed revenue, especially since a large number of residents are already using them.

"Fireworks are an American tradition. As you could tell during the Fourth of July and New Year's Eve, fireworks are everywhere in this parish," Hogan said. "It doesn't make sense that the parish loses out on tax benefits to adjacent parishes that allow the sale of fireworks."

Hogan's ordinance would mirror a St. Bernard Parish ordinance that was passed two years ago. The ordinance restricts the shooting of fireworks to areas more than 1,000 feet away from churches, schools, gas stations, hospitals, and industrial facilities. It also restricts the types of  fireworks that can be sold.

"For example, the ordinance prohibits the sale and possession of all types of rockets that could fly onto another person's property or land on a  roof," Hogan said.

The ordinance would prohibit the sale of fireworks to anyone younger than 18, and would also restirct the times when fireworks could be shot while limiting their use to six days a year.

While Hogan says that fireworks would generate much-needed revenue, Parish President V.J. St. Pierre has said that the money the parish would receive from allowing fireworks isn’t as much as believed. He said he has heard that most of the sellers deal in cash and don’t report everything they make.
Aside from the economic impact of fireworks, some council members are worried about the problems legalizing them could cause.

“I think we should leave everything how it is,” Councilman Shelley Tastet said. “I don’t want them to be able to sell fireworks in the parish because then that’s just another thing we have to worry about.

“It’s fine how it is.”

Councilman Terry Authement said that because fireworks are illegal now, the noise they make isn’t as bad as it could be.

“If you legalize it, that means that more people will be shooting fireworks and that will annoy a lot of people,” he said.

Authement also brought up a house fire three years ago that he said was caused when the pyrotechnics set a grill on fire and burned down an entire house. He added that another negative effect is that some animals get scared when they hear loud noises or see bright flashes.

“A few years ago I was driving down River Road and there was a big thunderstorm with a lot of thunder and lightning, which scared some of the horses out of their pen. One of the horses ran into the road and I couldn’t stop and I hit it,” Authement said. “The horse was killed and the front of my truck was destroyed.

“That just illustrates how some of these animals react to that kind of stimulus.”

Hogan countered by saying that all of the pets he has owned have had no issue with fireworks.

"In fact, this ordinance would minimize the affects on pets by limiting the use of fireworks, which currently appears to be unlimited.”

Maj. Sam Zinna, representing the St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office, told the council last time the fireworks issue was brought up that police do get a lot of noise complaints, but that sometimes officers are too busy with more serious matters to enforce the fireworks ban - especially on New Year’s Eve.

Zinna said that 90 to 95 percent of the complaints the Sheriff’s Office receives also come from anonymous callers, which means that the officers have to catch someone in the act of shooting fireworks because they have no witnesses to rely on.

View other articles written Jonathan Menard

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