Porch Crow

Mansfield police Chief Keith Porch (right) and fire Capt. Dan Crow discuss state fireworks law changes on Tuesday evening with City Council.

MANSFIELD -- A change in Ohio law, which allows residents to shoot off their own consumer-grade fireworks on and around several holidays, takes effect July 1.

Mansfield City Council isn't sure that's a great idea, making it the topic of a safety committee meeting Tuesday evening.

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 (House Bill 172) 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.

Lawmakers in both those cities put their own bans in place.

Mansfield City Council members met Tuesday with Mansfield Fire Dept. Capt. Dan Crow, who heads the fire prevention/arson investigation bureau, and police Chief Keith Porch.

Crow said the city fireworks ordinances fell in line with the former state law, which is changing.

"If we do nothing, the provisions of House Bill 172 go into effect throughout the city," Crow said. "In essence, right now, fireworks are completely illegal to discharge in Mansfield. That will change July 1.

"This is an opportune time, as we have a few months before these changes go into effect, to get feedback from council in terms of which direction you would like to go (in terms of changing local fireworks ordinances)," Crow said.

Even if council bans discharge of fireworks, Crow said the only way authorities can cite someone with a minor misdemeanor is to actually catch them in the 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."

Porch said 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.

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"If you're asking me, council, I would recommend (the ban). But that's my recommendation," he said.

Fourth Ward Councilman Alomar Davenport questioned if council was being asked to consider creating a law that would be "99.9 percent" of the time impossible to enforce.

At-large Councilwoman Stephanie Zader raised the same question.

"We're struggling to respond to calls. So if we're going to put this law on the books and have no one to respond to it, what's the point?" Zader asked.

Porch compared it to a traffic infraction.

"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," the chief said.

Council, which discussed the issue for 20 minutes in committee, took no action, agreeing to continue discussing the issue before the new state law takes effect.

Also on Tuesday, City Council:

-- discussed the future of the city's civilian Police Review Commission during a safety committee meeting, agreeing that continuing the council-appointed panel is a priority. Anyone interested in participating on the commission, which has representatives from each ward in the city, can call the council clerk's office at 419-755-9680 or email citycouncil@ci.mansfield.oh.us.

-- approved a tax credit agreement with Ohio Valley Stamping-Assemblies Inc. of Mansfield. The company hopes to expand its operations, hire 30 more employees and generate another $936,000 annually in local payroll.

-- approved building demolitions at 173 Vale Ave., 214 Miller St., 308 Newman St. and 1160 Pawnee Ave.

-- approved paying Dixon's Fine Cleaning Services $6,061 for cleaning work done in the Municipal Building during January that was done prior to submission of a purchase order.

-- approved the acceptance of a $471,075.34 grant from the Ohio Office of Criminal Justice Services for the Northern Ohio Comprehensive Opioid, Simulant and Substance Abuse program. The money will be used to assist the 10-county METRICH Enforcement Unit. There is no local match required to receive the funds.

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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?"