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Church Hill denies request for two-hour fireworks limit on July 4

Jeff Bobo • Aug 31, 2019 at 9:30 AM

CHURCH HILL — Despite a complaint last week, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen won’t cut permissible fireworks shooting to two hours on the Fourth of July, although the mayor said he would consider a reduction in days around Christmas.

Debbie Merritt, who resides on East Lane Street, told the BMA last week that she and her pets were shell-shocked after about nine days of nonstop fireworks in her neighborhood last month.

“I suffered silently for a number of years, but this year I felt terrible after (July) Fourth because of all the fireworks that were shot around me,” Merritt told the BMA. “They started on Monday of that week, and they didn’t end until Sunday of that week. It’s like being in a war zone all of that time.”

The current ordinance allows fireworks to be used on July 3-5 between 8 a.m. and 11 p.m.

The city also allows fireworks to be shot those same hours Dec. 24 through Jan. 2.

Merritt said fireworks were set off in her neighborhood from the Saturday before the Fourth until the Sunday after the Fourth. Some of her neighbors used high-dollar fireworks that she said shook her windows.

“That is too long in my opinion,” Merritt told the board. “ ... They didn’t end until 1:30 a.m. on the Fourth. They were shot on my street, they were shot on the next street, they were shot two streets down — beside of me and behind me. I got up on the Fifth and I just felt terrible. I felt like I’d been through a rock crusher.”

Merritt asked the BMA to limit permissible fireworks shooting to July 4th from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. She also asked that the ordinance limit fireworks to Dec. 31 only.

She added, “It gets dark at 9 p.m., so that’s when you should be shooting them. ... If you had people outside here shooting a .357 Magnum the whole time this meeting is going on, do you think that would bother y’all some?”

Although some board members said they sympathize with Merritt’s situation, the consensus among board members was to keep the ordinance the same.

“Unfortunately, like most things, people do go overboard,” said Alderman Keith Gibson. “If you do set a time limit, it’s going to be terrible for the police because people are not going to (comply). … Unfortunately, Debbie, I think this is going to be a no-win situation because even if we pass an ordnance to limit it to one day, I don’t think people will honor it. They spend the money, they buy the fireworks, and they’re going to shoot them.”

Mayor Dennis Deal said he agrees that the Christmas/New Year portion of the fireworks ordinance could be shortened, but the city doesn’t get a lot of fireworks complaints that time of year.

Deal noted, however, he believes allowing fireworks for only two hours on the Fourth was too short a time period.

“I don’t shoot fireworks, but I don’t think two hours on a holiday is enough, if we’re going to do the Fourth,” Deal said. “We let them sell (fireworks) here, and what I’m saying is, there’s kids who go and purchases them, and to say you can only shoot them two hours that day and you’re done, I think that’s a little strict.”

Deal said the ordinance is also hard for police to enforce.

“You can’t catch them,” Deal added. “By the time you get there, they go inside.”

CHPD Chief Chad Moseby said he’s seen one citation issued for a fireworks violation since the ordinance was approved in 2012.

“One of the issues you’ll run into if you limit to one day — say the Fourth of July falls on a Thursday — most people will have their cookouts and stuff on Friday and Saturday.”

Merritt said she will video the people who are shooting fireworks illegally in her neighborhood next year and bring that video to the BMA.

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