After months of discussion and meetings with fireworks vendors and their own public safety officials, Horn Lake Board of Aldermen amended its fireworks ordinance to clarify the dates and times when they can be sold and shot off, as well as the requirements of vendors and the penalty for violating the new law.
Under the new guidelines, sales of fireworks for the Fourth of July holiday would be allowed to start in June 17 and run through July 5 from 5 to 10 p.m. with the exception of July 4, which would allow sales up to midnight. Residents would be allowed to shoot fireworks from June 29 to July 5 from 5-10 p.m. and 5-midnight on July 4.
Fireworks sales would also be permitted for the New Year holiday starting on Dec. 20 until Jan. 1. Residents will be allowed to discharge them starting on Dec. 26 through Jan. 1 from 5 p.m.-10 p.m. and 5-1 a.m. on New Year’s Eve Dec. 31.
Vendors will be charged a permit fee of $1,000 per location and must have a sign at each location listing the times fireworks can be discharged and include a printed copy of the law to each customer. Tents must also be located on one acre minimum in order to qualify for a permit.
The law also prohibits sales to anyone under 18 and requires adult supervision to anyone under 18 who are discharging them. Violators can be fined up to $1,000 and or 90 days in jail.
The revised measure also added a new holiday - Juneteenth - when fireworks sales and discharge will be allowed. Residents will be allowed to purchase fireworks June 18-19 and shoot them off from 5-10 p.m until June 19.
The revised ordinance passed 4-3 with Aldermen Jackie Bostick, Dave Young, and Robby Dupree voting against it.
Ward 1 Alderman Michael Guice, who served on the committee which studied the proposed changes, said he believes the revisions strike a proper balance that still allows fireworks to be sold, while imposing restrictions that better protect the public safety.
“I think it allows people to keep the privilege of shooting fireworks, while addressing the real issue which is the people who don’t follow the law,” Guice said. “We changed some things so the police can address that if you don’t supervise your kids and people who shoot them after hours. I think it is a good ordinance. It gives us the ability to deal with the cause of the problem without banning them completely.”
Ward 4 Alderman Dave Young said he was disappointed by the vote because it puts profit over public safety and wasn’t strict enough.
“I’m not happy about it,” Young said. “We have let the people of Horn Lake down. It’s not what the city wants. It’s not what residents deserve. And they turned around and added a holiday that should not have been included, which I think was done just to lengthen the time of fireworks sales.”
The city collects less than $27,000 a year in sales tax from fireworks.
Horn Lake is the only city in DeSoto County which allows residents to shoot fireworks off in the city limits. After a busy Fourth of July holiday which saw one home catch on fire and several other incidents requiring the police and fire departments to respond, Alderman Jackie Bostick called for banning fireworks and urged the Board to revisit the current law which he felt didn’t have enough teeth to allow it to be enforced.
A previous motion to ban fireworks failed 3-4 at the November 2 meeting, and sent aldermen scrambling to find a compromise.
Bostick, Young, and Dupree have been outspoken about the need to protect public safety and the rights of residents who suffer from PTSD, mental disorders, and pet owners whose animals are frightened by the noise.
Guice argued that bans are not effective because people will still buy fireworks and shoot them off and that enforcement is difficult. Others on the board, like Ward 5 Alderman LaShonda Johnson and Ward 2 Alderman Tommmy Bledsoe, sought middle ground that would still allow the sale and discharge, but with tighter restrictions on hours they could be shot off. Alderman At-Large Danny Klein argued that the problem is with safety and not sales and opposed an outright ban.
Police Chief Troy Rowell told the Board at previous discussions that he isn’t opposed to the current ordinance which allows fireworks, but did want to see more exact language in the law, specifically addressing requiring proper adult supervision for anyone under 18 shooting fireworks.
Horn Lake Police Department received over 40 fireworks related complaints this year, but did not write any citations.
Bostick, Dupree, and Young expressed their disappointment with the outcome after the vote.
“All of you guys are invited to Ward 3 and Birchville Circle to listen to the fireworks any time you want to come,” Bostick said.
Dupree echoed those sentiments.
“I’m like Alderman Bostick, come to my house on the Fourth of July if you don’t want to sleep,” Dupree said. “Because you won’t be able to sleep on my street.”
Young said the board did not represent the city well with its decision to continue to allow fireworks in the city, and extended a similar invitation.
“Please come to Ward 4 as well for the Star Spangled Banner Invitational,” Young said.
Mayor Allen Latimer said the changes seem like a fair compromise and that the Board can revisit the matter in the future if anything needs to be changed.
“How it works out, we’ll just have to wait and see during the holiday,” Latimer said. “If it doesn’t, we can always come back. It’s not written on a stone tablet. But it seems liked a pretty fair compromise to me. It was pretty divided. It was either leave it like it is, or do away with it completely. I think this is a meet in the middle thing. But something had to be done so our vendors had some guidance for the holidays. It couldn’t just keep getting postponed and postponed.”