Grosse Pointe ShoresJuly 25, 2012
Shores officials, residents fired up about new fireworks law
By K. Michelle Moran
C & G Staff Writer
GROSSE POINTE SHORES — They may provide momentary awe-inspiring spectacles, but the damage caused by fireworks can be permanent.
Calling on city leaders to take whatever action they can to limit the use of previously banned fireworks, an emotional Vito Cusenza fought back tears as he recounted a fire July 8 that destroyed a beloved church attended by his relatives in Grand Rapids. The cause of the rooftop blaze is believed to be fireworks, he said. And fireworks were also said to be responsible for a devastating fire several years ago at the Grosse Pointe Hunt Club that destroyed the historic barn and killed a number of horses, he said.
Lt. Bill Nicholson — standing in for Public Safety Director John Schulte, who was out of town — told the City Council at a July 17 meeting that his department was looking at actions taken by other communities to see what type of rules Shores officials might be able to implement. But they’re a bit hamstrung by the new state law, which supersedes local regulations and designates 10 national holidays for fireworks use, including July 4 and Christmas. Besides the holidays themselves, municipalities can’t ban fireworks use the day before or the day after those holidays, Nicholson said.
Now that airborne fireworks are legal, Cusenza is worried that the devices could trigger fires in the Shores, especially given this summer’s drought.
“I am concerned about this fireworks situation,” he told the council.
City Council member Kay Felt concurred, noting that one night she heard the blasts start going off at 11:15 p.m., and “it sounded like gunshots.”
City Council member Bruce Bisballe said the legislature’s decision to rescind a previous ban on such fireworks as firecrackers and bottle rockets was based on economics. He said vendors selling the fireworks have to pay a $1,000 fee per sales location, in addition to sales taxes gained by the state.
To residents like Cusenza, no amount of additional revenue for state coffers is worth the potential loss of life, health and property.
The Shores does have a fireworks ordinance already. City Attorney Mark McInerney said they’ve had one on the books since 1974. However, they can’t enforce it on the 30 days per year that the state has designated as, or around, holidays. McInerney said they can enforce other ordinances — for example, a fireworks vendor couldn’t set up shop at Lake Shore and Vernier because no business would be allowed to do that. However, using the noise ordinance to block use of fireworks likely wouldn’t hold up to legal scrutiny.
“I question whether the noise ordinance can be enforced without undercutting state law,” McInerney told the council.
Cusenza said state Rep. Tim Bledsoe, D-Grosse Pointe City, is an opponent of the new state fireworks law and is trying to rescind it. Mayor Ted Kedzierski said they could continue to monitor the situation with Bledsoe, and he encouraged residents to contact the state representative so that he can share their concerns with leaders in Lansing. Officials are also considering drafting a resolution against the new fireworks law to send to state officials.
Public outcry about changes in the law already have some state leaders looking at ways to amend it, McInerney said.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if the statute looks a lot different next Fourth of July than it did this Fourth of July,” he said.”
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