By: Benjamin J. Gohs, News Editor
Boyne City Commissioners voted 4-1 to restrict the usage of fireworks to the few days surrounding major holidays following a discussion over the matter during their regular Monday Oct. 9 meeting.
The issue had been earlier discussed in mid-July following passage of a new state law which greatly increased the type of fireworks people could use and the times they could use them, but commissioners then decided to see how the summer went before making a decision.
“We doubled our complaints this year,” said Boyne City Police Chief Jeffrey Gaither. “From our perspective it wasn’t something terrible, but I understand the concerns of some of the citizens who had to deal with these fireworks issues in their neighborhoods.”
He added, “Unfortunately a lot of the fireworks were happening at night and disturbing people so it is a concern.”
Gaither gave commissioners three suggestions on how to deal with the issue of some people lighting fireworks at all hours of the night.
“One of them is to leave the ordinance as it is and basically just enforce the time periods we have on the city ordinance … prohibited between midnight and 7 a.m.,” he said. “The second step would be to pass an ordinance similar to what some of the other cities around here are doing … they’ve enacted ordinances to basically prohibit all fireworks use within their jurisdiction except for those time periods that are mandated by state law, that’s the holiday and the day on either side of the holiday.”
Gaither added, “The third one would be to change the existing fireworks ordinance to reflect whatever hours you felt were appropriate for that, but I think that may be difficult due because of the use of nighttime fireworks—in the summer it doesn’t get dark until 10:30, so the fireworks start going then.”
Boyne Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Jim Baumann, who said he spoke as a citizen and not a representative of the chamber, told commissioners he completed a survey of chamber members and residents and that two-thirds of them took issue with the new fireworks law. According to Baumann’s July 19 e-mail to Boyne City officials, 32 people responded to the survey in question and, according to Baumann, 80 percent—or 25.6 people—favored limiting fireworks usage to the state minimum of 30 days per year.
“We used to have no fireworks at all. The new state law says well you’ve gotta have fireworks 30 days of the year and now we’ve gone to 365 days a year,” Baumann said. “I’d like to see it hit that middle point. That’s reasonable. You’re letting people use fireworks more than they could before, but every night of the year?”
He added, “It’s all summer. It was very disturbing.”
Baumann said there were at least 15 complaints to the police department around the July 4 holiday.
Boyne City Commissioner Laura Sansom said she had a number of incidents last year where fireworks were being used 20 minutes after the allotted time.
“It’s very disturbing, especially if you have to be to work at six in the morning,” she said. “I like the sort of putting a little more tighter rein on it—not having it 365 days. I would be in favor of say whatever the state has issued, which is 10 holidays, the day before, the day of and the day after would make 30 days a year.”
Sansom said she would like the cut-off for using fireworks to be at 11 p.m.
Sansom said that, while the state law prohibits minors from buying fireworks, it does not state that they cannot light them, and that is something she would like to see changed.
“You shouldn’t be allowing 9 and 10 and 12-year-old kids setting them off in your neighborhood and I watched that happen last summer with great alarm,” Sansom said. “It’s a little scary when you see young people doing that.”
Sansom said she also wants to be able to request that citizens not set off fireworks during times of higher risk of fires.
Also, if people would want to light fireworks outside of Sansom’s suggested time-lines, they could apply to the city for a permit.
Gaither said there were 12 fireworks related complaints in 2011 and in 2012 the police received 27 fireworks complaints.
Boyne City Manager Derek Gaylord asked on what dates did the complains occur to which Gaither provided dates.
“It is interesting that no complaints until basically June—there is one in March—and three in August and none in September and so far none in October, so it appears to be confined to the summer time,” Gaylord said.
Gaylord said the issue of minors using fireworks is the responsibility of the parent.
“Permits, special permits for times outside of that and we’re back to more regulations and more fees—exactly what we don’t need in this economy right now,” Gaylord said. “I find it interesting that when finally some regulations are loosened that there are some folks that just can’t wait to put the strangle back on the citizens.”
Gaylord said it was a crime for the last 30 or so years to simply light off a bottle rocket—something people in the states surrounding Michigan were free to do.
“Every state around Michigan it was legal and the state(s) didn’t implode,” he said. “I fully supported the midnight time-frame cutoff. If they’re lighting them off after midnight then they get wrote a ticket—it’s pretty simple.”
Gaylord said as the newness of the new law wears off that complaints will likely decrease.
“Not discounting the folks that called in but at this point I can’t support any further restriction beyond what the state has allowed us at this time,” he said.
Boyne City Mayor Ron Grunch said the usage of fireworks was “ridiculous” in his neighborhood.
Grunch said if everyone who had concerns with the fireworks had called in then the numbers might have been much higher than they were.
“We’re sick and tired of it, frankly,” Grunch said.
Boyne City Commissioner Tom Neidhamer said he supports option two.
Sansom said it is difficult to ticket the culprits of lighting fireworks late at night because, by the time she wakes up and calls 9-1-1 the scofflaws have disappeared.
Gaylord pointed out that there is already an ordinance which prohibits people from lighting fireworks past midnight, and that instating further regulations will do little if nothing to prevent people from skirting the law.
“We have a small dog that’s affected by it (loud fireworks) but that’s life,” Gaylord said. “II cannot move forward with infringing on, further restraining the law abiding citizens by more regulation.”
The city’s current fireworks ordinance will be amended to allow fireworks only on the 10 major holidays, including Christmas, New Years and July 4, including the day preceding and the day after each holiday.
Gaylord was the lone “nay” vote.