NEW ALBANY — Residents of New Albany may soon see their window for shooting off fireworks shrink.
An ordinance working its way through the city council would add a firework prohibition to the city's noise law. The proposal was approved on first and second readings Monday, but a final vote will take place at the Aug. 15 meeting, which starts at 7 p.m.
If adopted, the ordinance would only allow consumer fireworks to be used between the hours of 5 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. June 29-30, July 1-3, and July 5-9. For Independence Day celebrations, fireworks would be allowed from 10 a.m. July 4 to 12:01 a.m. July 5. Lastly, fireworks would also be legal from 10 a.m. Dec. 31 to 1 a.m. Jan 1.
Any violation of the ordinance would result in fines, the first of which being $150. A second violation would result in a $300 fine, with each violation thereafter given a fine of $500.
If a group were to want to have a fireworks display outside of the included times and dates, there would be avenues to acquire permission.
"We did put in the ordinance that if a group or organization wants to have a firework display, there will be a clause in there where you can actually go and get a permit," council member Dave Barksdale said. "Before, that wasn’t in the state statute. I feel like we kind of put [neighborhoods that have separate celebrations] at peace."
The reason such a proposal was brought forward is because of what some council members described as an increase in complaints from citizens.
“Each year around Fourth of July, and this is my fourth on the the council, we start getting a lot of complaints," Barksdale said. "This year, in my estimation, it seems like I got more complaints from my constituents than years' past. Even where I live, there were still fireworks going off in the early part of August. I know several of the other council members got complaints too.”
To fellow council member Dr. Al Knable, those calls were segmented into three distinct groups. The first are those who simply want peace and quiet, with the second group being pet owners whose pets go into "panic mode" from all of the noise. The most important group, according to Knable, are those suffering from post traumatic stress disorder as a result of military service.
"I’m former military," Knable said. "Though I saw no combat, I spend a lot of time in VA hospitals, so I know PTSD is real. All other concerns being equal, I'm going to side with our veterans every time."
By limiting the window for when fireworks are allowed, Knable said these groups can plan and make the proper accommodations.
Despite the calls fielded by council members, New Albany Police Chief Todd Bailey said at the meeting that he doesn't believe the department received more calls than prior years.
"[Bailey] explained that the calls for service regarding fireworks appeared to be less this year than what they were last year, and the impact of fireworks in general was less than previous years," the minutes from the Aug. 5 meeting read. "He added that he can’t account for why, but he wanted to add some clarification when looking at the statistics, because they didn’t find that they were inundated this year as compared to other years."
The council, Knable said, isn't looking to eliminate fireworks completely. Nor is the council looking to create more work for the police department, he added.
Instead, he wants to give a course of action for people who may not be pleased with the disturbance of unexpected fireworks.
"If you have someone lighting them off incessantly, this gives citizens some leverage," Knable said. "Nobody is looking to get anybody arrested or fined, but it’s to give them a warning to understand this isn’t the right time to do it. We didn’t reinvent the wheel. We went to neighboring municipalities to see what they’re doing."
Barksdale agreed, adding that he doesn't believe it's too restrictive.
“I’m pretty pleased with this document," Barksdale said. "I think it’s something people can live with it. It’s just about respect for the neighbors."