Fireworks

MANSFIELD -- Fireworks are on the agenda for a Mansfield City Council safety committee Tuesday evening.

Literally.

Though no legislation related to the issue is on the main council agenda, the three-member safety panel is scheduled to discuss at 6:30 p.m. potential changes to local laws, given changes in Ohio's law that take effect July 1.

That new law allows residents around the state to ignite their own consumer-grade fireworks on and around several holidays, including the 4th of July.

Council broached the topic in February, discussing it with city police and fire department leaders. Local lawmakers took no action, agreeing to continue a discussion before the new law goes into effect.

Under the old law, Ohio residents purchasing consumer-grade fireworks -- things like firecrackers, Roman candles and bottle rockets -- had 48 hours to transport them out of the state.

However, the new law allows residents to possess and discharge the fireworks on more than 20 holidays, including New Year's Eve and Day, Chinese New Year, Cinco de Mayo, Memorial Day Weekend, Juneteenth, July 3 to 5 (and weekend days preceding and following), Labor Day Weekend and Diwali.

The change, signed into law in November by Gov. Mike DeWine, allows local governments to restrict hours for the fireworks or even ban their usage. Some cities have done exactly that, including Dayton and University Heights.

During the meeting in February, Mansfield Fire. Capt. Dan Crow told council that city ordinances mirrored the former state laws, meaning the use of such explosives would still be against the law inside city limits.

Crow said the only way authorities can cite someone with a minor misdemeanor is to actually catch them in the noisy act.

"We all know that when you see the police or the fire department show up, everyone goes back inside," Crow said. "Enforcement provisions will be a little bit of a challenge, but now is the time to kind of consider what's available for us and how we can move forward."

One possibility, according to 2nd Ward Councilwoman Cheryl Meier, would be to add a civil penalty of $1,000 which could be assessed to a homeowner if evidence is provided showing illegal fireworks were used at the residence.

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"Nothing has been decided," said Meier, a member of the safety committee. "We will be discussing it Tuesday night."

Mansfield police Chief Keith Porch told council in February he would ban local commercial-grade fireworks if he was making the choice, based on resident complaints and safety issues, despite his department being short-handed.

At least two council members, 4th Ward Councilman Alomar Davenport and At-large Councilwoman Stephanie Zader, questioned if changing the local ordinance would simply create law difficult to enforce.

"We have speeding laws, that law is on the books and people speed every day. We tackle that when we're able to do that," Porch replied.

Also on Tuesday, City Council is expected to:

-- vote on a proposal rezoning a portion of three parcels on John Long Street to I-2 (general impact industrial district) from its current MF (multifamily residential). The parcels are located along U.S. 30 on the city's north side.

-- discuss during caucus a proposal to appropriate $36,660 from the unappropriated law enforcement fund for METRICH operational expenses.

-- vote on a proposal to appropriate $641.25 from the unappropriated capital equipment fund to buy police exercise equipment.

-- vote on the acceptance of a $50,982.31 grant from the Ohio Office of Criminal Justice Services to used for a portion of the cost of a family violence liaison officer. The grant requires a 25 percent local match in funding ($16,994.10).

-- vote on a $63,728 contract with Lake Erie Electric, Inc., of Mansfield to install underground conduit for lighting in the parking lots around the Municipal Building. The proposal says, "the Public Works Director has obtained informal proposals without advertising from qualified contractors willing and able to expeditiously perform" the work. Funds for the work will come from the city's American Rescue Plan Act funds.

-- discuss during caucus transferring $525,000 from the permanent improvement funds to provide a match for an FAA grant to rehabilitate "Apron A" and certain taxiways and taxi lanes at Mansfield Lahm Regional Airport.

-- discuss during caucus a proposal to seek bids for a Fourth Street storm sewer improvement project. The work will be funded by ARPA funds approved by council in 2021.

-- discuss during caucus a request to spend $937,742 for six new city trucks, all of which can be used year-round and also for snow plowing in the winter. Plans include two Freightliner 108SD dump trucks ($368,310), two Ford G650 trucks ($340,548) and two Ford F550 dump trucks ($224,884). Funds to pay for the trucks will come from a combination of American Rescue Plan Act revenues, street maintenance capital account and the sewer repair capital account.

-- discuss during caucus changes to administrative and operational guidelines for the Downtown Improvement Advisory Board, formed after voters approved a $5 increase in license plate fees in 2018. The board, which receives around $220,000 per years, has only made project recommendations to City Council in the past. The change will allow the board to make funding decisions for projects costing $25,000 or less without prior council approval.

Chuck Hahn, Cleveland Financial Group, invests in this independent reporting through a Newsroom Partnership.

City editor. 30-year plus journalist. Husband. Father of 3 grown sons and also a proud grandpa. Prior military journalist in U.S. Navy, Ohio Air National Guard. -- Favorite quote: "Where were you when the page was blank?"