Lebanon police Chief Mike Justice said police are safer under the city’s current fireworks regulations, compared to previous rules that were overturned in 2012 and made use and sale of fireworks illegal.
Mayor Bernie Ash said during a city council work session meeting Thursday that several residents have asked him about returning to the fireworks ban due to people ignoring the city’s rule that fireworks may only be used June 20 to July 5 from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Justice, when asked about a possible impact reinstating the ban would have, said the police department received approximately the same number of calls about fireworks this year and in years when fireworks were banned.
When fireworks were banned, Justice said, there were incidents in which people shot fireworks at police officers who were trying to enforce the ban.
“There’s not a big increase in calls taken, and for our night shift, it’s much safer,” Justice said. “If it’s illegal, you lose the revenue of firework sales, but people still shoot them off here anyway.”
Ash brought the issue to the meeting to see if any city councilors had ideas for a solution. Ash initially proposed putting a stiff fine into place — a number he suggested as an example was $1,000 — for anyone who shoots fireworks outside of the accepted dates and times, however he was told the city could not impose more than a $50 fine.
Justice said often young people are shooting fireworks after the 10 p.m. cutoff, and his officers know to track down the parents to give a warning.
“I know it’s annoying,” Justice said. “We’re trying to do our part to make sure we warn the parents.”
Ash also discussed a letter he said he received from Wilson County Mayor Randall Hutto and Watertown Mayor Mike Jennings about fireworks.
Ash said they were seeking to arrange all official fireworks shows in each municipality and the county on July 3 going forward, rather than July 4, so those who choose to attend would not have to worry about work the next morning.
“I think we’ve pretty much always done it on July 4, so I don’t really see a reason to change that,” Ash said. “I thought I would see how everyone else feels about that before I responded to them.”
City councilors at the Thursday meeting agreed and chose not to take any action related to fireworks.