(Edited for clarification of timeline. -Ed.)
More than a year–and two July Fourth celebrations–after the Wentzville Board of Aldermen approved a five-hour window for the legal use of personal fireworks on the Fourth of July, the board continues to debate the issue.
“When you make silly laws, the people are going to let you know about it–by shooting them off multiple days,” said Alderman Rob Hussey.
According to city documents, between June 1 and July 5 of 2015, the Wentzville Police Department received 117 calls about fireworks, which resulted in 57 summonses being issued to violators.
For the same period in 2016, police received 245 calls, more than twice the previous year. Those calls resulted in 66 summonses being issued.
Fireworks discussions have been on the agenda for the past three months, but the board has not yet reached a consensus about how to change the ordinance to increase compliance.
Alderman Cheryl Kross wanted to stay with the same hours, and Alderman Sonya Shylock wanted to extend the Fourth of July hours until midnight.
Alderman Linda Wright said, “People are going to shoot them the weekend before, no matter what you say.”
Aldermen Michael Rhodes suggested a three-day window–July 3, 4, and 5. He said that with encouragement and education, there was a better chance that residents would follow the rules.
Mayor Nick Guccione said he didn’t like allowing fireworks on the 5th, because the holiday was over.
Matt Swanson was the lone holdout for banning fireworks completely. “It’s a very simple question, we allow it or we don’t.” He was concerned about data showing how many calls were received and how long it took for police to show up to the calls. “It’s not an enforceable law,” he said.
“No matter what you do, we’re going to get 300-400 complaints,” Police Chief Kurt Frisz said. The department’s enforcement strategy is to ask law breakers to comply. “If we have to come back, we enforce [the ordinance].” The chief told the board that the overtime period for fireworks enforcement was June 21 to July 15.
Now, in addition to potentially changing the hours and/or days of legal use, the board is looking at allowing fireworks sales in the city limits.
“We might as well collect a fee to help with the officer overtime,” Hussey said.
Wright commented that she thought that they money generated by permits should be used to make the city’s professional show bigger and better.
City Administrator David Gipson said that any changes to the code needed to amend the definitions of which fireworks were banned and which were acceptable, such as snap-n-pops and sparklers.
No decisions were made, and the issue will be back on the agenda for a future meeting. “We’re getting closer,” Guccione said.