Heights council still adjusting city’s fireworks ordinance

By BOB OLIVER
Times-Herald Newspapers

HEIGHTS — After weeks of working on a new language for the city fireworks ordinance, a little more tinkering still is needed.

Prior to the Aug. 13 city council meeting, City Attorney Gary Miotke met with the council to discuss changes to the city’s current fireworks ordinance. He has been drafting new language for the council to approve.

Miotke said the city is looking to adjust the ordinance so it would remain in line with changes to state law passed in Public Act 65 of 2013 but also allowing the city to be aggressive in dealing with violators.

Public Act 65 of 2013, which was enacted June 19, allows local units of government, based on population, to regulate the use of consumer fireworks during certain hours on the day before, day of and day after a national holiday. Use between midnight and 8 a.m. is banned.

“The state has given us some things to be able to regulate during the time” fireworks are allowed, Miotke said, “but they’ve kind of undercut us in terms of our ability to sanction people or go after them in terms of arresting them.”

Miotke added that one of the issues he has faced when drafting the new ordinance is the fact that the state has set a limit on fines and sanctions that can be applied to offenders.

According the the Act, fines under local ordinances are “restricted to a $500 maximum fine for each violation and violations could not be subject to any further fine or sanction.”

Miotke recommended that the Police Department start citing violators with state misdemeanors as opposed to trying to enforce the rules under the local ordinance.

He added that while this would make it the state’s responsibility to prosecute, he was not sure that they would have as much invested in it as local authorities would.

Councilwoman Janet Badalow said several councilors have received complaints of fireworks from residents since late June.

“People are livid about this,” Badalow said. “We have to get something on the books that’s gonna be upheld and easy for the Police Department to enforce.”

Mayor Daniel Paletko said the changes to the state law this year have local governments working hard to try to change their ordinances so that they can still prosecute offenders.

Miotke said he will continue to work on the proposed ordinance and will present it to the council at its next meeting Aug. 27.

(Bob Oliver can be reached at boliver@bewickpublications.com.)