Fireworks foes circulate letter

By Thomas Wilson
A leaflet taking issue with the four council members who voted to make retail fireworks sales legal in Elizabethton has been circulated amongst Elizabethton residents.
Elizabethton City Council passed an ordinance legalizing the retail sale of fireworks by only one vote at last month's council meeting. Council members Mayor Sam LaPorte, Mayor Pro Tem Sam Shipley, Nancy Alsup and Richard Sammons voted yes while Council members Pat "Red" Bowers, Bill Carter and Janie Smith McKinney voted no.
The leaflet also purports a fireworks manufacturer or distributor could be coming to town and the city has a warehouse capable of holding thousands of pounds of fireworks. "The city may have a warehouse that can hold up to 300,000 pounds of explosives," the leaflet reads.
The city owns the former Elizabethton Herb and Metal building on Hattie Ave.
City Manager Charles Stahl said Friday he was unaware of any wholesaler with designs on locating in the city.
"If there is a fireworks wholesaler coming here, it has certainly not reached this office," said Stahl.
The ordinance prohibits fireworks wholesalers or manufacturing within city limits. LaPorte said the fireworks issue arose during last year's annexations along the Milligan Highway which brought fireworks retailers into the city. "We felt like it ought to be looked at," he said. "It is not right to just let one or two people sell them in the city because of a technicality."
A caveat facing the council relates to the time permitted to discharge fireworks. The ordinance's language sets time boundaries on retail sales, but doesn't place a time prohibition on when fireworks may be discharged. Under the current ordinance, fireworks may be discharged 365 days a year.
"We are going to look at that issue," said LaPorte.
The letter also takes issue with comments made by the four council members voting for the ordinance as they were quoted in the Star. "When someone gives me a paper that isn't signed, I don't take it seriously," Alsup said regarding the letter on Friday.
Passed at the council's July 10 meeting, the ordinance allows the selling and discharge of fireworks from June 20 to July 5, and Dec. 10 through Jan. 2 every year. Fireworks vendors have sold fireworks inside Carter County for decades where sales are legal. The ordinance passed by council prohibits the discharge of fireworks within 600 feet of a school, church or other inhabited structure and a 50-foot boundary between a fireworks retailer's business and the nearest building.
The ordinance also requires any structure where fireworks are sold to be at least 50 feet from any other structure. The Elizabethton Fire Department had requested a structure be set back 75 feet to comply with new International Fire Code regulations, which are expected to be adopted by the state later this year.
The proposed ordinance would allow seasonal retailers to pay $300 for a city permit to sell fireworks. A seasonal retailer would also be required to carry current insurance of at least $2 million in product liability and $1 million in general liability. The city would be named as an additional insured party on the general liability policy.
Sales or shooting of fireworks are legally prohibited in the cities of Johnson City, Kingsport, Bristol, Tennessee and Virginia, as well as the towns of Erwin and Jonesborough. Sullivan County and Washington counties also prohibit fireworks detonation and sales. Retail vendors may sell fireworks in Mountain City and Johnson County.