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Fireworks ban in sight for cities?

Britt Retherford

Fourth of July celebrations might seem a long way off, but Grass Valley city officials have already begun considering a ban on the sale of fireworks in the city limits for next summer.

The issue was prompted by fire officials who presented a recommendation to increase the permit fee for stands next summer from $100 to $200 to cover the price tag of ensuring safety.

This past year, permits for fireworks stands brought the city of Grass Valley $900, and the city’s cut of fireworks sales was $1,100. Grass Valley Fire Chief Hank Weston said these permit fees do not cover the costs incurred by the city police and fire for increased patrols, which totaled $1,750 for the day of the holiday alone.

Resident Walt Bailey argued to the City Council Tuesday evening that fireworks in the city limits make no sense at all. He cited examples of how the availability of “safe and sane” legal fireworks in Grass Valley were responsible for several fires this year, including a 15-acre wildfire off Lime Kiln Road in late July.

“Safe and sane” fireworks are legal to use in most parts of Grass Valley and Nevada City. They are sold in Grass Valley as a fund-raiser by permitted nonprofits.

Councilwoman Linda Stevens said she would support considering a total ban, but said she feels it would be useless unless there was a cooperative effort with Nevada City and possibly even other counties and cities.

“I don’t know the purpose of banning it if they can get them elsewhere,” she said.

Bailey said he will be taking a total ban proposal to the Nevada City City Council soon.

If a ban is enacted, however, nine area nonprofits may be forced to find alternative sources of fund-raising. Nevada Union choir director Rod Baggett said his group raises an average of $5,000 to $6,000 each holiday season with its fireworks stand, and the money goes toward buying music, paying for festival fees, and covering transportation costs for students.

“We are always concerned about fire hazards,” Baggett said. He also said he believed “the problem comes when people do them illegally.”

Weston said residents need to be aware that they will be held responsible for damages caused by fires started by fireworks whether the fireworks are legal or not.

If the City Council decides to ban fireworks in Grass Valley, it “needs to be done posthaste because it is not fair (to the nonprofits) because they put their orders in six months ahead of time,” Weston said.

In other business on Tuesday, the Grass Valley City Council approved a state-funded, systemwide upgrade to the 911 call system. The upgrade includes three ergonomically correct chairs costing an average of $1,000 apiece for a total of $3,197. The program is required by the state, and there is no cost to the city for these upgrades.

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