Councilman Paul Hogan has not given up on his fight to legalize fireworks and has sponsored yet another ordinance that would allow residents to pop fireworks during specific times.
Hogan’s ordinance, which will be voted on by the St. Charles Parish Council on Monday, July 1, is similar to an ordinance he introduced last year that was shot down in a 5-4 vote. However, Hogan is confident that more parish residents will show up to voice their support of legalizing fireworks after the St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office issued more than 100 citations to residents who illegally shot fireworks in January.
"I have continued to get calls from residents who want fireworks legalized but they have to show up at the meeting to let the council know how they feel," Hogan said.
Hogan’s ordinance would allow fireworks to be popped from 9 a.m. until 10 p.m. on July 3, July 4 and Jan. 1. Fireworks would also be allowed from 9 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 and the pyrotechnics can not be fired within 1,000 feet from any gas station or industrial facility.
The current fireworks ban has proven difficult to enforce because deputies are usually called to deal with more important crimes during the New Year’s Eve weekend. Deputies must also catch someone in the act of shooting fireworks because most of the noise complaints the Sheriff’s Office receives come from anonymous callers.
Still, the Sheriff’s Office stepped up enforcement on New Year’s and was able to issue 113 citations. Deputies also confiscated $10,000 worth of fireworks. The vast majority of the citations were handed out between 10:30 p.m. and 12:30 a.m. on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.
When the Sheriff’s Office posted a story about the citations on its Facebook page, around 100 angry residents complained about the enforcement saying deputies had more serious crimes to worry about. Councilwoman Wendy Benedetto, who voted against repealing the ban last year, said she took notice.
"People have to come out and express their thoughts," she said. "Those that want fireworks legalized and those that don’t 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.
"I’m here for the people and I have to do what they want me to do," she said.
Hogan said he is 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 Year’s Eve and there wasn’t a deputy in sight," Hogan said. "They were all in the neighborhoods tracking down people shooting fireworks."
Sheriff Greg Champagne said while there was a special task force dedicated to catching people shooting fireworks, there were enough deputies to patrol for crimes and drunk drivers throughout that weekend.
However, Champagne recently urged residents to contact their council member or attend the July 1 meeting to say whether they are for or against the legalization of fireworks.
Last 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.
Tastet and Nuss are no longer members of the council and have been replaced by Councilman Billy Woodruff and Councilwoman Julia Fisher-Perrier, respectively.