The St. Charles Parish Council voted 5-2 to overturn a ban on fireworks for four days a year during the 4th of July and New Year’s holidays.
The change will allow fireworks to be popped from 9 a.m. until 10 p.m. on July 3 and 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 cannot be fired within 1,000 feet from any gas station or industrial facility.
Although fireworks have been illegal for personal use in the parish for the past 37 years, many have ignored the law during holidays.
The lifting of the ban comes after the St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office stepped up enforcement efforts during the last New Year’s holiday by giving out 113 citations and confiscating $10,000 worth of fireworks from local residents.
Prior to the vote Parish President V.J. St. Pierre reminded the council that any change in law would have to be made available to the public through a notice before it can go into effect, which means the ban would still be in place until at least next week.
"It won’t take effect this July 4th because it has to be published in the official journal for five days and then it becomes law. So you still won’t be able to pop fireworks this 4th of July," he said.
Councilman Paul Hogan, who sponsored the ordinance, said he would ask St. Charles Parish Sheriff Greg Champagne to not enforce the ban beginning immediately.
"I will be drafting a letter to the Sheriff asking that he doesn’t enforce the current law," he said.
Eighteen spoke at the council meeting on behalf of lifting the ban while only three spoke against it.
One of those who spoke against the bill was Hahnville resident Milton Allemand.
"Fireworks are a nuisance, noisy and most of all a safety and fire hazard. Often times it is someone else’s property or person other than folks using the fireworks that are negatively affected," he said.
Bayou Gauche firefighter Louis Falgout said the arguments concerning the danger of fireworks are unfounded.
"I’ve been a firefighter for approximately 13 years. I have been on zero house fires because of fireworks over those years and zero injuries from fireworks. I approve the lifting of this ban," he said.
Luling resident Nicole Moore spoke in favor of lifting the ban after she received a ticket over the New Year’s holiday.
"I received a ticket this past year for doing sparklers with my children in my front yard. I spent $20 on sparklers and smoke bombs for my three children and they picked up each piece and put it in the trash can. After that I got a ticket," she said.
Many also spoke out against what they perceived as a waste of law enforcement time and resources that could be better utilized elsewhere, such as enforcing driving under the influence laws.
Councilwoman Wendy Benedetto voted against repealing the ban last year in 5-4 decision, but changed her vote due to public outcry from those who received citations.
"I can’t tell you the amount of calls I have received, the emails, not only from my district this time, but from St. Rose, from Norco, from the East Bank, from the West Bank, wanting me to support this. Once again I am here to do what the people ask me to do and I will be in support of it this time," she said.
Councilmen Terrell Wilson and Clayton "Snookie" Faucheux were the two votes against repealing the ban.
"I have a pretty elderly community. I had about half a dozen or so who contacted me who were for (lifting the ban) and the ones that were against it had legitimate reasons. There were some family members that were in the Vietnam War that never really fully healed or recovered," Wilson said. "There are several who take their family members to other areas during the fireworks so they can have peace. Their animals go crazy." St. Pierre indicated he would seek further study on the issue before deciding on whether to sign or veto the ordinance. Councilwomen Carolyn Schexnaydre and Traci Fletcher were absent for the vote.
|Parish residents packed the council chambers and lined up to speak out on lifting the fireworks ban.|