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Local News

Sale, Use of Fireworks in Lompoc Focus of Tuesday Meeting, with Fire and Police Chiefs Seeking Ban

With the fire and police chiefs still recommending a ban, the future of safe and sane fireworks in the city of Lompoc on July 4 will be considered Tuesday during a joint meeting of the City Council and Public Safety Commission.

The meeting is scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m. in the Council Chambers at Lompoc City Hall, 100 Civic Center Plaza. A regular City Council meeting will follow at 7 p.m. 

Staff recommends the City Council seek input from the Public Safety Advisory Commission regarding the sale and use of fireworks.

The city has allowed safe and sane fireworks — basically those that aren’t propelled into the air — on July 4 for the past two years, despite objections from public safety leaders.

Fire Chief Kurt Latipow and Chief Pat Walsh, who began leading the Lompoc Police Department in September, said in a report that staffs of both agencies still are opposed to allowing the sale and use of fireworks “as we believe those activities within the city are inconsistent with our commitment to public safety.”

If the council chooses to allow fireworks again, the chiefs recommended the rules and fees remain the same.

The topic of whether to restore the ban sparked spirited discussions recently on social media among those who favor fireworks and those who want to see the prohibition put in place again.

Since the city’s ban was lifted, the number of fireworks-related calls for service skyrocketed, according to the staff report prepare for the council members and commissioners. In 2011 and 2012, dispatchers received 48 and 23 calls compared with the 115 and 173 calls reported in 2013 and 2014.

“The level of illegal fireworks activity was once again such that crews would stop to determine a responsible party, only to have additional discharges take place in the vicinity,” the staff report said. “Fire crews had no choice but to move from one illegal discharge to another, counseling as quickly as possible, so as to remain available. Fire Department staff noted the typical scenario that played out over and over; illegal fireworks discharges would be mixed in with 'Safe and Sane Fireworks,' which only made the enforcement more difficult.”

Crews said there was an increase in illegal fireworks discharges in every area of the city last summer, the chiefs’ report said. 

Last summer, six nonprofit groups, selected during a lottery of applicants, sold the state-certified safe and sane fireworks for use on July. 4.

Each group was required to give 30 percent of its sales to fund the community fireworks show. But the $19,158 raised from safe and sane sales falls short of the needed amount for that show, which typically runs about $29,500. 

The $28,162 cost of the 2014 show exceeded revenues from sponsorships, donations, ticket sales and nonprofit groups’ contributions by $247, city officials said.

The city’s shortfall for the 2015 show would run from $1,500 to $10,500, depending upon whether the the event continues to charge admission and other factors.

The expense of the extra enforcement for the Fire Department is estimated at $3,200 and $11,500 for the Police Department.

Fire Department personnel issued five administrative citations, all of which were related to the alleged discharge of illegal fireworks. All administrative citations, including the one issued by police, were processed for payment by the Fire Department’s billing company. 

Two of the violators were placed on a payment plan while four others failed to respond to requests for payment and have been forwarded to the City Attorney’s Office for legal action. The total amount of those outstanding fines is $5,500.

Small claims actions have been filed against Jose Graciano, Jason Cochrane, Tammy Eskelson and Stephanie Schaffer to collect those unpaid administrative fines, the staff report said.

The hearings for those four cases have been set for 8:30 a.m. Feb. 6 in Santa Barbara County Superior Court in Santa Maria, according to online information.

Lompoc is the North County newcomer to sales and use of safe and sane fireworks, which have been sold for years in Santa Maria and Guadalupe.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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