June 30, 2010 by wcobserver
By Nick DeMoss
County- With the Fourth of July quickly approaching, Washington County residents are planning family get-togethers for some fun in the sun and to celebrate the nation’s independence. Once the sun goes down, however, many will grab a box of their favorite festive explosive and settle in for a night of fireworks at home.
However, some who live in south Washington County may have a harder time getting a hold of their fireworks this year, thanks to a few policy changes around the county.
Greenland residents will be the hardest hit, officials said. In a town that typically has as many as four fireworks stands, new regulations on banners in the city are driving off out-of-state vendors who would normally set up shop in the area.
Under the current banner ordinance, businesses looking to set up advertising banners in Greenland must go before the planning commission to be approved, meaning long drives or flights for outside vendors, said Greenland building inspector Troy Enoch.
Officials in Greenland are, however, working to change the ordinance, Enoch said. The change under consideration would allow permits to be obtained through a fax machine, thereby eliminating the problem, he said.
Banner permits aren’t the only factor hurting the fireworks business in Greenland. Construction on highway 71 across from Drake Field has also damaged prospects for the fireworks industry in the area. Enoch also suggested that new fireworks sales in Fayetteville could be drawing stands away from more rural areas, though he noted he could not yet verify a direct link.
Next year will almost definitely be better, Enoch said. Finished construction and an altered banner ordinance should once again make the Greenland area an appealing one to fireworks sellers,
No fireworks stands had been set up in Winslow as of June 22, although officials there noted vendors could wait until closer to the Fourth to open, as there are typically two stands.
Aside from city-specific issues slowing the fireworks business, new national regulations are driving up the cost of operation across the board.
In addition to the normal operating costs of utilities, insurance, space rental and permit fees, new regulations from the Department of Homeland Security require all fireworks to be delivered by someone licensed to deal with hazardous materials.
For West Fork resident Jason Napier and his family, new regulations mean more focus on the legal and business side of the business, and not the normal family-reunion style experience the Napier’s usually garner from their seasonal stand.
Additionally, federal regulations on shipping explosives mean some fireworks have become illegal altogether, Napier said. Thundersnaps, which Napier described as “the grown-up version of the little snaps you throw on the ground,” are no longer able to be imported from China where they are produced, because they contain more than the legal amount of gun powder.
Napier said he thought that in the long run heightened laws and regulations would discourage his aging parents from continuing their family fireworks stand in West Fork.
In the meantime, though, the Jason and his mother Kristie said the stand continues to be an excellent way for family and friends to gather and celebrate the nation’s independence.
“The Fourth is the one day when you can be unabashedly patriotic,” Kristie Napier said. “ I love the Fourth, because it doesn’t matter what political party or religious denomination you belong to – everyone is welcome.”