Mansfield municipal building

MANSFIELD -- Planning to ignite bottle rockets and similar fireworks in the City of Mansfield during the upcoming Independence Day holiday weekend?

That bottle rocket will only cost you around 20 cents if you buy them by the gross.

But it may also cost you up to $1,000 via a civil penalty -- on top of a first-degree misdemeanor and accompanying criminal fine.

That's if Mansfield City Council on Tuesday approves amending its fireworks ordinance to keep consumer-grade fireworks illegal in Mansfield, even as a new state law allowing them takes effect July 1.

Council began discussing the issue four months ago, meetings that included Mansfield fire and police leaders, all of whom recommended keeping the local ban in place.

"From my perspective, fireworks, as a whole, are bad," Mansfield fire Chief Steve Strickling told council June 7, a meeting during which no council members presented spoke against the ban.

During that same meeting two weeks ago, police Chief Keith Porch repeated his opposition to fireworks he first offered to council in February.

"I stand by my recommendation of (keeping fireworks banned). I agree we have been extremely lucky without having structure fires or individuals injured due to fireworks.

"This (new state law) talks about responsible owners or citizens lighting off fireworks. I can tell you that in my experience, especially in eight years in police administration, that hearing complaints with citizens from Mansfield, that these folks that are doing this are lighting off fireworks in the middle of the street or parking lots," the chief said.

"So they don't stick around. They want to look at the show behind the bushes because they know the police could be called. So that to me doesn't sound like somebody that's being responsible, in my opinion," Porch said.

"These are not done in residences, in somebody's backyard at the consent of the property owner because they are not going to accept the liability," Porch said.

"I can tell you that it'll take one child to be killed or seriously injured, or one structure catching on fire like an apartment complex where we have multiple fatalities ... the city of Mansfield will not enjoy that news," Porch said.

Assistant Law Director Chris Brown told council the current ordinance regarding fireworks is a first-degree criminal misdemeanor. He said the civil penalty could be added in the same way the city fines property owners for not mowing their grass or issuing a parking ticket.

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"We don't care who's necessarily not mowing, but we can know who the property owner is and make sure that the property owner is ultimately responsible," Brown said.

"We don't have to show (who) illegally parked a car. We ran the plates, it's illegally parked and the owner of the car is going to pay the ticket," he said.

The legislation will need to be approved as an emergency in order for it to take effect immediately, beating the July 1 deadline. That will require at least six votes among the eight voting council members.

Also on Tuesday, City Council is scheduled to:

-- vote on the appointments of Suzy Beeson (5th Ward) and Jack Soliday (At-large) to the city's Police Review and Community-Police Relations Commission.

-- vote on the re-appointment of Susan Gentile and Patrick Clinage to the city's Public Arts Commission.

-- vote on demolition orders for structures at 56 Bartley Ave., 154 Boughton Ave., 284 Cline Ave. and 538 Lida St., as well as a structure on West Newlon Place.

-- vote to adopt the 2023 tax budgets for the Township of Mansfield and the City of Mansfield.

-- vote on a request to allow the city's public works director to advertise for bids for road salt.

-- discuss during caucus a proposal to spend $49,958.73 in American Rescue Plan Act funds to purchase a new storage area network unit from Dell. The legislation said the city's existing SAN is out of space and has reached its "end of life."

-- discuss during caucus the transfer of $55,575 within the city's parks and recreation department. The money is currently in the pools line item and the city is not operating a municipal pool this summer.

-- vote on a proposal to transfer a "small piece of city-owned property beside 331 Prescott St." to the Richland County Land Bank.

-- discuss during caucus the acceptance of a $3,000 donation from OhioHealth Corp. to be used in the West End Target Area Project.

-- discuss during caucus a proposal to allow the administration to sell through a gas stove, range hood, gym scoreboard and basketball hoops from the Ocie Hill Neighborhood Center.

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?"