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City Council to re-examine fireworks ordinance

The disruptive bangs and pops from the private use of fireworks has City Council on the brink of re-examining a city fireworks ordinance.

“It is something we need to re-examine,” Councilman David Banks said, adding it could be fewer days before the holiday than exists in the current amended ordinance.

“Enforcement is difficult on this issue,” Banks said.

People need to “be respectful” of the needs of neighbors, when deciding whether or not to set off fireworks at all, Banks said.

Council is feeling compelled to take a renewed look at the law after days and nights of explosions rocking neighborhoods for weeks before Independence Day.

“I’m sure everyone on council has heard from fellow citizens, friends and neighbors about the proliferation and duration of the enhanced fireworks available and in use across the city over the past two months,” said Council President Randall J. Allison.

“It has reached and passed the point of endurance for many people due to a number of legitimate reasons,” Allison said.

“They go too late, cause anxiety in pets and people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and the current length of time in number of days allowed is obviously much too generous,” he said.

Allison said he has asked the public safety committee to begin a formal review of the ordinance for the purpose of making a recommendation to the full body of council regarding amendments and the development in conjunction with city public safety departments of a plan for enforcement.

The legal time limit ends Saturday, based on the city ordinance. Fireworks also are shot off early New Year’s Day.

The ordinance allows for their use seven days prior to July 4 and seven days after, providing the user is 150 feet from any structure.

Some more powerful fireworks are available for sale in Pennsylvania over the last three years since the state statute was signed into law by Gov. Tom Wolf.

The length of the time permitted for use of fireworks is hard on first responders.

“It certainly would make life easier for police and fire departments if the permitted time window was clear cut and communicated to the public,” Banks said.

City Police Chief Damon Hagan said the department investigates each noise or fireworks-related complaint.

“We can issue citations up to and including disorderly conduct,” he said.

Councilman Adam Yoder has received numerous questions about the ordinance, and many people are providing more feedback than usual on the ordinance.

The issue as the fireworks in town seemed to be going off on a larger scale this year.

“In my own opinion, this issue comes down to enforcement,” Yoder said. “This ordinance, as well as any ordinance, is only as good as the enforcement mechanism to ensure it’s executed as intended,” he said.

Yoder said he wanted to have data and collaboration with public safety professionals to understand how enforcement of the current ordinance has gone so far, as well as the level of community support and involvement for enforcement of the current ordinance.

After reviewing incidents in Lycoming County, state police at Montoursville responded to seven complaints of noise or fireworks between July 1 and Monday, as compared to two complaints of noise or fireworks from the same time frame in 2019, said Trooper Angela Bieber, a public information officer with Troop F.

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