By DAVID GREEN
Michigan’s law forbidding most fireworks has stood with little change since it was written in 1931. That changed when Gov. Rick Snyder signed legislation that took effect Jan. 1, 2012, and now communities throughout the state are re-writing local ordinances to match.
Morenci’s existing ordinances don’t allow the sales or use of most fireworks, but will soon be changing.
The new state law allows the use of fireworks on the day before, the day of and the day after national holidays, although local government units are free to expand usage.
Morenci mayor Keith Pennington asked city council members Monday night if any of them have a desire to expand on the allowable days, and he asked Chief of Police Larry Weeks for an opinion.
“The common issue with fireworks is that it becomes a noise issue,” Weeks said. “Not everybody is respectful about their use. My preference would be to leave it as the state ordinance allows.”
Changes should be made for the annual town festival, noted councilor Brenda Spiess, and she suggested allowing fireworks on both weekends surrounding the Fourth of July since the holiday falls on a Wednesday this year.
Spiess added that perhaps a cutoff time such as 10:30 p.m. should be established to prevent all-night explosions.
Weeks said the state law makes no mention of disturbing the peace, nor does it mention the use of fireworks on public property. He expressed concern about fireworks usage at, for example, Wakefield Park when a crowd is attending the Town and Country Festival.
The new state law also allows the sale of fireworks after a permit is obtained from the state. Local ordinances can be written to regulate where fireworks are sold.
At a previous discussion of the issue, Chief Weeks suggested that council should consider whether it wants large quantities of fireworks to be stored for sale in the downtown or in residences.
Morenci zoning administrator Jacob Barnes told council that a proposed fireworks ordinance written by the city attorney looks good, but it doesn’t address zoning issues. He suggested allowing the sales of fireworks in C-3 zoning, such as the Dollar General area, and to make it a permitted use after approval. He offered to write a proposed zoning ordinance to consider.
“I would think if we had the request for such a facility, it would be on the outskirts of city anyway,” Barnes said.
He doesn’t see that the city would be prohibited from adding setbacks from buildings. The city might also want to differentiate between temporary and permanent establishments, Barnes said.
Weeks expects to see new sales establishments cropping up along the state line now that Michigan’s law is very similar to Ohio’s.
MILAGE—Council voted to replicate the milage repayment rate for business travel as specified by the IRS. The city’s rate will now increase from 40.5 cents a mile to 55.5 cents.
ELECTRICAL—Council accepted Dean Newell’s bid for an electrical upgrade at Wakefield Park. The work will be completed before the Town and Country Festival in late June.
Newell’s bid of $3,052 was the only one received.
STREETS—Now that Baker Street and a portion of Orchard Street are widened, the city is able to seek the change of their status to major streets and receive more state funding.
Mayor Pennington asked if the east city parking lot could be designated as a thoroughfare since many people use it as such.
Councilor Tracy Schell stated that it was worth investigating since the cost would be small, but it would produce an annual return through state funding.
ABATEMENT—General Broach was granted a standard 12-year tax abatement on the purchase of new equipment. The company’s personal property tax on the machine would be cut in half, cutting their payment to the city by about $9,500 each year.