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Fireworks complaint aired to Follansbee council

FIREWORKS, CHRISTMAS PLANS DISCUSSED — Follansbee Council received a complaint Monday from a resident about large fireworks landing on his property as well as heard proposals for a Christmas parade and lightup activities. (Photo by Warren Scott)

FOLLANSBEE — City council was asked Monday to consider stricter regulations for residents using fireworks and proposals for a Christmas parade and expanded activities for the city’s lightup night.

Resident Dan Kelly told council he was sitting on his porch when an inch and a half wide section of a firework landed in his lap. He said he wasn’t harmed by it but it and two others, all containing explosive powder, were among many fragments propelled onto his property.

Kelly said the fireworks were set off about 125 feet from his porch and he would like council to ban skyrockets and other fireworks fired into the sky and potentially into others’ properties.

Mayor David Velegol Jr. noted the city has an ordinance that only prohibits fireworks from being used outside of the hours of 10 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. on July 4 or Dec. 31. He said any changes would have to be made at council’s discretion.

City Police Chief Larry Rea said enforcement said a fireworks ordinance is a “gray area” because the state permits residents to purchase them.

Former city police chief John Schwertfeger noted state legislators have allowed municipalities to adopt their own laws regarding fireworks.

“As council, if you want to put bigger teeth in there, you can,” he said.

Rea confirmed council may consider limiting the size or scope of fireworks used.

The Follansbee ordinance was adopted in 2016 when the Legislature expanded the types of fireworks that could be used by residents.

That legislation added aerial projectiles such as Roman candles, sky rockets and bottle rockets to the previous list that included smaller, ground-based items such as fountains and sparklers.

Wheeling and Weirton are among municipalities that have banned the use of some or all fireworks within city limits.

Some area police departments have reported a larger number of fireworks being used on and around Independence Day, possibly because the pandemic led many cities to cancel their own pyrotechnical displays.

Fifth Ward Councilwoman Wendy DeAngelis said she’s heard from residents whose sleep was disrupted by them or who were concerned about their young children’s safety, but she’s also heard from residents who enjoy them.

Rea said it can be difficult for city police to enforce the ordinance due to limited manpower.

Kelly argued the greater availability of fireworks could lead to more fires for the city’s volunteer fire department to put out.

In other business, resident Robin McIntosh asked council’s blessing in expanding the Christmas lightup event to include music by school bands or church choirs, crafts for children and food and other vendors.

Held at the Ray Stoaks Plaza, the event normally includes a sing-along by candlelight, visit by Santa Claus and refreshments inside the nearby City Building.

McIntosh added Brooke High School students could be invited to decorate storefronts along Main Street for a community service credit or as part of a contest.

“I thought it would be nice if, as you came down Main Street, it was Christmas everywhere,” McIntosh said.

She said the event could help to make up for the cancellation of the Community Days festival because of the pandemic.

“It might be nice to socialize, even with masks,” McIntosh said.

Velegol confirmed the alternative Community Days event, planned for Aug. 29 when the July festival was canceled, is among fairs and festivals being called off following a spike in COVID-19 cases.

The fireworks display planned for the event also has been canceled, with funds allocated for it to be applied to next year’s.

The mayor said in light of that, Community Days organizers Tom Ludewig and Paul DiGiacinto have suggested a Christmas parade, the first in recent years for the city.

Ludewig said it’s often been difficult to get local school marching bands for the summer festival’s parade but that shouldn’t be an issue in December.

Ludewig said up to $4,000 may be needed to cover transportation costs for the bands, depending on the number of schools involved.

Third Ward Councilwoman Kathy Santoro said the money could come from funds council had allocated for this year’s festival.

Velegol said the parade could be held just prior to the lightup festivities, which are being eyed for the first weekend in December.

Council is expected to consider the proposals at its next regular meeting at 6 p.m. Monday at the City Building.

City Manager John DeStefano said he also will present, for council’s approval, several streets to be paved.

(Scott can be contacted at wscott@heraldtaronline.com.)

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