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Council will once again tackle fireworks legalization

By Jonathan Menard -   Jan 10, 2013

Council will once again tackle fireworks legalization

After St. Charles Parish Sheriffís Office deputies issued 113 citations for discharging fireworks during the New Yearís holiday, Councilman Paul Hogan will reintroduce legislation to legalize the pyrotechnics.

Last March, an identical ordinance was shot down in a close 5-4 vote, but Hogan is confident that more residents will come out in favor of legalizing fireworks this time around. Hoganís ordinance would allow the popping of fireworks from 9 a.m. until 10 p.m. on July 3, July 4 and Jan. 1. Fireworks would also be allowed from 10 a.m. on Dec. 31 until 1 a.m. on Jan. 1.

Under the ordinance, the sale of fireworks inside the parish will remain illegal.

"I canít be the only council member getting calls to repeal the ban," Hogan said. "People need to come out to the meeting and let their opinions on fireworks become known."

While the fireworks ban has proven difficult for the St. Charles Parish Sheriffís Office to enforce due to the abundance of more serious crimes that occur around the holidays, Sheriff Greg Champagne used a special task force to combat the problem last week.

That resulted in 113 citations being issued and the confiscation of $10,000 worth of fireworks.

When the Sheriffís Office posted a story about the citations on its Facebook page, nearly 100 angry residents complained about the enforcement. Councilwoman Wendy Benedetto, who voted against repealing the ban last year, said she took notice.

"The ordinance has been around since 1976, but I think (the citations) are bringing awareness that itís illegal to shoot fireworks," Benedetto said. "People have to come out and express their thoughts. Next time it does come up those that want fireworks legalized and those that donít need to come out and speak for it."

Benedetto, whose father owns a fireworks stand in Madisonville, said she grew up with the pyrotechnics and is not against their use. However, she only received one call last year from someone who wanted fireworks legalized.

"Iím here for the people and I have to do what they want me to do," she said. "Though Iím not against fireworks, I did what the people in my district that contacted me wanted me to do."

Hogan and Benedetto both said they were concerned that having to enforce the fireworks ban could keep deputies from patrolling for drunk drivers.

"I had people call saying they saw drivers swerving in the road at 10:30 p.m. on New Yearís Eve and there wasnít a deputy in sight," Hogan said. "They were all in the neighborhoods tracking down people shooting fireworks. I forwarded the information to the sheriff."

Benedetto agreed, saying that she would hate for someone to be injured by a drunk driver because police were too busy with fireworks enforcement.

However, Champagne said on his Facebook page that there were enough deputies to patrol the parish for drunk drivers despite having a separate task force for fireworks enforcement.

At last yearís meeting on whether or not to allow fireworks, only four people showed up to comment. All of those were in favor of keeping fireworks banned in St. Charles. However, some council members said they received multiple calls against legalizing fireworks and only a few in support of it.

In March, council members Terrell Wilson, Tracy Fletcher, Carolyn Schexnaydre, Clayton "Snookie" Faucheux and Benedetto voted to keep fireworks banned. Councilmen Shelley Tastet, Larry Cochran, Dennis Nuss and Hogan voted for their legalization.

Hogan said he will introduce his fireworks ordinance on Jan. 22 and that discussion on it will take place during the councilís Feb. 4 meeting.

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