Holiday brings explosion of fireworks complaints

By Thomas Wilson
STAR STAFF
twilson@starhq.com

   The first Fourth of July holiday since the Elizabethton City Council legalized the retail sale of fireworks brought few dealers to the city but an explosion of complaints to Elizabethton Police Department this season.
   City police received over 40 complaints regarding fireworks being discharged between June 28 and July 5, according to Chief Roger Deal.
   "We obviously had more complaints about fireworks than before we had the ordinance," said Deal.
   The seven-member City Council narrowly passed an ordinance in July 2003 legalizing the seasonal sale of fireworks between June 20 to July 5 and Dec. 20 and Jan. 2 within city limits. The ordinance established a permit acquisition process for retailers and set demands of liability insurance and boundaries for retail locations. The ordinance effectively grants the right to shoot fireworks 365 days a year until a curfew of 11 p.m.
   Police reported receiving several complaints from neighborhoods around the city in West C, G, H and I streets as well as Siam Road and North Walnut Street over the weekend. Deal said complaint calls peaked on Sunday. Complaints ranged from fireworks purportedly being fired toward houses and thrown from vehicles to simple noise problems.
   Police reported advising several people to observe the curfew banning fireworks use after 11 p.m. Deal said that despite the complaints, police found most July Fourth revelers in compliance with what the ordinance permitted.
   "For most of those calls, people were in compliance with the ordinance," Deal said, "but sometimes people don't want to hear them."
   According to one police report, a Williams Avenue resident called Mayor Sam LaPorte Sunday and said if fireworks were shot around her residence she would shoot the persons responsible.
   The department reported less than 10 complaints made during the July Fourth holiday last year.
   The city issued two permits to TNT Fireworks and one permit to Fireworks World to sell fireworks this July Fourth season. The two out-of-state fireworks companies operated single locations within city limits. Edens Fireworks - a city fireworks retailer granted non-conforming use status decades earlier - also operated this season under the city permit.
   Some citizens opposed the ordinance when initially passed citing the public safety hazards presented by legalizing fireworks sales.