Thursday, July 17, 2014
Responding to a recent outbreak of illegal fireworks, the Pawleys Island Town Council on July 14 moved to adopt a “zero tolerance” policy for fireworks and to get tough on individuals who set off anything from sparklers to bottle rockets and sky lanterns.
The town council solidified fines for violators of the town’s fireworks ban, and directed the Pawleys Island Police Department to step up enforcement.
Fines were set at a minimum of $150 and a maximum of $500. There also will be no more verbal warnings for a first offense.
Police previously had been reluctant to issue citations for violations of the fireworks ban, because it was covered by two ordinances that had different fines for violations – with one of the ordinances calling for a minimum fine of $250 for a single violation.
Often, the police department issued verbal warnings rather than misdemeanor citations.
The town council unanimously gave immediate approval to a new ordinance establishing the uniform $150-$500 fine structure, and instructed the police department to begin issuing citations rather than warnings.
“As the homeowner of a wooden structure, I live in mortal fear of a fire from a single firecracker that could burn out 30 homes,” said Councilman Mike Adams.
In the space of three days from June 25 to June 27, the police department issued verbal warnings for four incidents involving fireworks, according to town police records.
Police Chief Mike Fanning urged the town council to find a middle ground in the fireworks ban.
He said the town should “walk a fine line” that doesn’t discourage vacation renters from coming to the island, but maintains public safety on the island. Fanning acknowledged there has been reluctance to write up tourists for the existing $250 minimum fine because of the effect it could have on tourism.
Town council members, however, made clear they want no more verbal warnings issued – and instead want the department to issue citations for at least the minimum fine of $150.
Councilwoman Sarah Zimmerman said she understood Fanning’s concern about the effects on the tourism economy, but as a resident of the island she has to support a policy of “zero tolerance” for fireworks, including sparklers.
The ordinance adopted on first reading calls for a ban on “sparklers, firecrackers, cherry bombs or any exploding device, bottle rockets, sky rockets, roman candles, mortars, flares, fountains, sky lanterns, luminaries and any other Consumer Fireworks that have been listed as Fireworks and approved by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.”
The only exceptions to the ban are event fireworks shows that must undergo a permitting process.
In other action, The amended ordinance will affect all new residential construction on the island.
The town council also heard a report from Assistant Administrator Ryan Fabbri on construction beginning July 15 to repair a broken sewer pipe in front of the Town Hall.
Construction is expected to last three weeks and cause traffic congestion at the intersection of Myrtle Avenue and the North Causeway.
Fabbri recommended residents and visitors coming to the island should use the South Causeway if they don’t need to travel north of Town Hall.