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Holiday fireworks OK in St. John

By Michael Kiral / L’Observateur / June 17, 1998

LAPLACE – Fireworks will be bursting in the air again this Fourth of July, but this time residents of St. John the Baptist Parish will be able tolaunch them without knowing they are breaking the law.

The St. John Parish Council approved an ordinance that would amend thecharter to allow for the limited special event use and sales of fireworks.

Council members Steve Thornton, Kevin Duhon, Duaine Duffy, Ranney Wilson, Joel McTopy and Perry Bailey voted for the ordinance while Richard Wolfe and Clinton Perrilloux voted in opposition. A motion to tablethe motion was voted down 4-3 earlier in the discussion.

The new ordinance prohibits the use of fireworks except from dusk until 10 p.m. on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, the Fourth of July and NewYear’s Day and from dusk until 1 a.m. on New Year’s Eve. Anyone under theage of 15 is prohibited from discharging fireworks without the direct supervision of a parent, guardian or other responsible party. Fireworkswill also not be allowed to be discharged closer than 500 feet from any hospital, church, nursing home or school that is occupied or near products that will support combustibles, such as paper or dry grass.

An amendment was approved to the original motion that the sale of fireworks be prohibited within 500 feet of schools, homes, nursing homes or churches and only those holding the required occupational licenses may retail fireworks in the parish. Also, no fireworks shall be modified in anyway from its original design.

Fines ranging from $50 to $500 will be issued to those who violate any part of the ordinance.

Public discussion on the proposed ordinance was mixed. Kenneth Ridlen ofLaPlace said fireworks were banned in the first place because people cannot control themselves and that the old ordinance was not enforced properly. Ridlen said that with the new ordinance in effect, injuries andincidents will increase.

Helen Slicker of LaPlace, however, said her family and neighbors have been shooting fireworks without incident for the past two years. Last year theybought over $1,200 worth of fireworks and held a show for the neighborhood.

“Everyone enjoyed it,” Slicker said. “Everyone cleaned up the next day. Wedidn’t ask them to but they did because we are a community. I want to buywell-made fireworks and be able to but them in my own community.”Thornton, who introduced the ordinance, said in St. James Parish, wherefireworks are legal, there have been no incidents of injuries or disturbances of the peace. Thornton also said that being able to buyfireworks in the parish would hopefully take away the temptation for residents to design and build there own fireworks.

Wolfe, however, said he is totally against allowing fireworks in the parish.

“If people are breaking the law now, what are people going to do when the ordinance is in effect. I have seen how irresponsible people have been withfireworks. We are opening ourselves up to more liability and criticism. Bypassing this ordinance, I don’t see how it is going to help. It will onlyhinder. We are going to have accidents. I think we should consider thewelfare of the people of St. John Parish.”Wilson voted for the ordinance saying we do not live in a risk-free world.

“It is a form of recreation,” Wilson said. “Kids are doing it now. Nothing isgoing to change except that they will be buying them in St. John Parish.”

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