Salisbury Press

Sunday, September 23, 2018

SALISBURY TOWNSHIP BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS

Thursday, June 21, 2018 by Paul Willistein pwillistein@tnonline.com in Local News

State consumer fireworks law concerns chief, officials

There were some fireworks at the June 14 meeting of the Salisbury Township Board of Commissioners.

Or rather, there was discussion about fireworks.

Salisbury Township Chief of Police Allen W. Stiles warned the township doesn’t have sufficient legislation to regulate fireworks, the use of certain types which is now legal in Pennsylvania.

Salisbury Township Solicitor Atty. John W. Ashley was authorized to draw up a township noise ordinance or update the existing township noise ordinance.

The ordinance to regulate the ordinance won’t be ready in time for July 4.

“It’s out of date. It can’t be enforced,” Stiles said of the ordinance.

“It means that this summer we’re going to have a lot of fireworks complaints that you can’t do anything about,” Stiles told commissioners.

“It might be ready for July 4, 2019,” Stiles quipped about a new ordinance.

“A great combination: alcohol and fireworks. What could go wrong?” Ashley quipped.

On Oct. 30, 2017, the Commonwealth’s Act 43 of 2017 replaced the Fireworks Act of 1939.

The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Ride and Measurement Standards continues to license firms that sell what are called “consumer-grade fireworks.”

Salisbury Township commissioners voted unanimously 5-0 at a May 24 Conditional Use Hearing to approve Keystone Novelties Distributors, LLC, to sell fireworks at a tent on the parking lot at the South Mall. Commissioner Vice President Debra Brinton made the motion, seconded by Commissioner Joanne Ackerman, to bring the measure to a vote. The tent was to begin operations June 21.

According to the Pennsylvania State Police website, “Class C” or consumer-grade fireworks include firecrackers, Roman Candles, bottle rockets and similar fireworks that contain a maximum of 50 milligrams of explosive material.

These types of fireworks were previously only available for purchase by out-of-state residents.

Before the change in the law, Pennsylvania residents could only purchase fireworks known as fountains, sparklers and spinners.

“Display fireworks,” or those which have more than two grains or 130 milligrams of explosive materials, and professional-grade aerial shells containing more than 60 grams of pyrotechnic compositions, can still only to be used by professionals with a permit from the municipality where the fireworks display takes place.

Those 18 years of age or older can purchase consumer-grade fireworks.

The new commonwealth ordinance does list some restrictions on consumer-grade fireworks use, according to state police:

They cannot be ignited or discharged on a public or private property without express permission of the property owner.

They cannot be discharged from or within a motor vehicle or building.

They cannot be discharged toward a motor vehicle or building.

They cannot be discharged within 150 feet of an occupied structure.

They cannot be discharged while the person is under the influence of alcohol, a controlled substance or another drug.

There are apparently no state restrictions regarding hours of use nor sound-volume levels regarding consumer-grade fireworks.

Ashley said it would be difficult to enforce sound-volume levels because a decibel-level meter would need to be used to prove whether a sound-level ordinance was being violated.

Stiles said the township noise ordinance, as it’s now written, is inadequate to regulate the hours when consumer-grade fireworks could or could not be used in the township.

Concerns about the noise-level volume and time of use of consumer-grade fireworks is of concern especially to owners of pets, which can be frightened by loud sounds, including fireworks being set off.

Fireworks can be purchased at a licensed facility, including temporary ones, where a license is issued by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture. Temporary facilities, such as tents in parking lots, can sell fireworks between June 15 and July 8, and Dec. 21 through Jan. 2.

A license application for a temporary facility costs $1,000 with a license costing $3,000.

Stores selling consumer-grade fireworks must pay a $2,500 license application and an annual license fee of $7,500 for a location up to 10,000-square-feet; $10,000 for a location greater than 10,000- and up to 15,000-square-feet and $20,000 for a location greater than 15,000-square-feet.

There’s a new tax of 12 percent on consumer fireworks sales.

It’s anticipated the new fees could garner the commonwealth $2.6 million in the fiscal year and $9.3 million in the next fiscal year.

Joshua Joseph, district manager for Keystone Novelties, attended the May 24 conditional use hearing in the township municipal building.

The tent is expected to be open for the sale of fireworks, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. June 21 through July 5. The tent will be staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Keystone has a $10-million insurance policy per location.

Keystone has operated a tent at the South Mall parking lot in previous years.

“We have not had any incidents in Salisbury with the fireworks tent since they’ve been here,” Stiles said of Keystone.

“Our fire inspector will be checking the tent and our officers will be stopping by,” Stiles said.

Keystone operates 150 fireworks sales facilities in Pennsylvania and 500 locations in nine states.