MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — After the Martinsburg Police Department received nearly 90 phone calls since June 20 from residents concerned about noise from fireworks, the city council has decided to rewrite its fireworks ordinance.
While most people don’t mind a patriotic fireworks display on Independence Day, residents’ grievances began before the holiday and continued for more than a week after, according to police chief Maury Richards. Richards said most of the complaints were about fireworks being launched late into the night, sometimes until 1 a.m. or later.
At the city council’s Thursday evening meeting, legal counsel Kin Sayre said the city has an existing fireworks ordinance, but it has not yet been changed to include the change in state law that permits all types of fireworks to be sold and launched in West Virginia.
“Our ordinance prohibits all fireworks within city limits, but now that state law has changed, we can either take our current ordinance and allow fireworks to be sold but prohibit use in the city, or we could set a cutoff time,” Sayre said.
City manager Mark Baldwin asked for Richards’ input from a law enforcement point of view. Richards said if the city can get around state law, he recommends the city continue prohibiting the launching of fireworks within city limits.
“It’s not safe in an urban area for fireworks to be going off at any time,” councilman Ken Collinson said. “Rather than say, ‘Fireworks are good until 10 (p.m.),’ we should say they’re not good any time.”
Councilman Dennis Etherington said he would prefer no fireworks be set off in the city.
Several other council members said they experienced fireworks going off into the early morning hours during the Fourth of July weekend. Councilman Mark Baker said one of his neighbors continued to set off fireworks until 1:45 a.m. on July 5.
“I have no problem with responsible people who want to do fireworks on the Fourth of July at a cookout, but people lit this town up and it was totally out of control,” Baker said. “Some of the people ruined it for all of the people.”
Baker also suggested the city council write a letter to the state legislature asking them to revisit the fireworks issue in the future, a move Mayor George Karos said he would support.
Sayre said he will prepare a draft ordinance that permits the buying and selling of fireworks within city limits, but prohibit their use in the city. Sayre said the city’s ordinance would have to be rewritten and reenacted.
The penalty for violating the city’s existing fireworks ordinance is a fine of up to $500, which Sayre said will not change.
Staff writer Mary Stortstrom can be reached at 304-263-8931, ext. 138 or www.twitter.com/mstortstromJN.