Rohnert Park ponders stepped-up July 4 fireworks restrictions

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The Rohnert Park City Council will consider limiting the number of days residents may set off state-approved fireworks and ramping up enforcement against illegal use ahead of the annual Fourth of July celebration.

Council members last month asked city staff to develop amended restrictions, including reducing the amount of time so-called “safe and sane” fireworks may be used leading up to Independence Day.

The council directed staff to draft an ordinance that would permit the use of legal fireworks on only three days — from July 2 to July 4 at 10:30 p.m., down from five days under current law. The proposal will return to the council Tuesday for consideration.

The ordinance also would for the first time allow police to fine residents who oversee the use of illegal fireworks on their property. The council was unanimous with the recommendation.

“It’s not the legal fireworks that are the problem,” said Vice Mayor Joe Callinan, who opposed shortening the days for legal use. “It’s more a problem with illegal fireworks. That’s who we should be going after, and we’re trying to give law enforcement a tool to try and enforce it a little bit more.”

Fireworks would continue to be sold for five days, from June 30 to July 4, unchanged from current practices. Several local nonprofit groups that raise money from fireworks booths urged the council to maintain the status quo, noting that sales of legal whistlers, ground fountains and non-aerial spinners can generate more than half of their annual funding.

Councilman Jake Mackenzie was the lone council member to seek an outright ban on fireworks.

“The nonprofits say they’ll all wither away unless they’re allowed to sell fireworks,” Mackenzie said. “As someone who is subjected to the noise, I have consistently opposed the situation that exists. My position is for a ban of the sale of fireworks in Rohnert Park and prohibit this sort of mentality that it’s just fine to be setting them off all over the city.”

Mackenzie said he was satisfied for now with the additional restrictions in the proposed ordinance. Three other cities in the county allow state-approved fireworks: Cloverdale, Petaluma and Sebastopol. They remain strictly prohibited in the five other cities, plus unincorporated Sonoma County.

The Rohnert Park Department of Public Safety will increase fire staffing by a third on the holiday to respond to fireworks calls, department Director Tim Mattos told the council. The highest volume of calls for service into the city’s dispatch center during the year occurs on the Fourth of July, he said, and a new ability to ticket homeowners means officers will be out around the community looking for lawbreakers using unlawful fireworks.

“Public Safety is ready for Fourth of July,” said Councilwoman Susan Hollingsworth Adams. “They will be out in force. There will be a lot more citations this year for illegal fireworks.”

The City Council will take up the item at its regular meeting at City Hall, at 130 Avram Ave., on Tuesday, starting at 5 p.m.

You can reach Staff Writer Kevin Fixler at 707-521-5336 or kevin.fixler@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @kfixler.

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