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Hammond Board rejects ban on fireworks businesses

Fireworks were on the Village of Hammond Board agenda again this month, but possibly for the last time. A motion to ban the sale of fireworks within the village limits was voted down, 0-4.

Voting against the ban were Village President Vince Trudell, and trustees Tony Bibeau, Chris Buckel and Eric Arthur. The three other board members, Wally Graf, Steve Peterson and Erin McComb, were not present for the vote.

Many audience members voiced their opinions on the proposed ban, including two fireworks sellers and an attorney representing one seller. Several residents also spoke up against the ban.

The issue gained momentum again after Mike John, owner of Uncle Mike's Fireworks, talked to a committee about possibly opening a satellite location in the building at 600 Davis Street. Safety issues arose in the past when Phantom Fireworks operated out of that location.

Due to the legalities and potential dangers of selling fireworks, Trustee Steve Peterson proposed a discussion about banning the sale of fireworks. After a discussion during the Ordinance Committee meeting on Monday, Aug. 3, the issue was sent to the full board on Monday night.

Village Attorney Tim Scott told the board that because of the way the village is now treating fireworks sellers, bigger fireworks businesses may want to move in.

"I think you'll be hard pressed to say no," Scott said. "I personally believe it's bad policy to allow an illegal operation to go on."

Attorney Sam Cari spoke on behalf of Mike John and Uncle Mike's Fireworks during the discussion.

"The comment about the sale of fireworks being an illegal operation is untrue," Cari told the board. "There are ways to sell fireworks legally."

Cari told the board that in nine years of business, John hasn't had any safety problems or significant violations at his shop. Due to a health condition, banning the sale of fireworks would leave John without a way to earn a living, Cari said.

John told the board that everyone he sells fireworks to says they have a permit from the municipality they will be ignited in, but because of the way he interprets the state statute, he doesn't need to actually see the permits. The majority of customers -- 98 percent -- aren't even Wisconsin residents, John said.

Scott told the board about his past experiences with fireworks ordinances, including in the Town of Warren. The town asked for an opinion from the Department of Justice, which basically told them not to allow the sale of fireworks.

"We can ask for an advisor from the Department of Justice," Scott said to the board. "I'll bet you what your answer will be, but we can get one."

A Hammond resident in attendance spoke against the ban.

"You guys are talking about a private business. Unless he's breaking the law, he should have every right to his business," the resident stated. "In these economic times, Hammond should be looking to get businesses in, not pushing businesses out."

Buckel pushed for the issue to be voted on Monday night, rather than tabling it again, as happened during the July meeting.

"I personally don't want to ban businesses from coming or put an existing business out of business," Buckel said.

The three other board members present agreed, and voted against the ban.

In other news:

• The board approved a final pay request of $2,857.14 for the new sewer interceptor project. A pay request of $7,655 and retainer of about $2,000 for the 2008 Clark Street Project was also approved.

• The house on blocks at the corner of Fithian and Ridgeway streets, owned by Mark Maple, was brought up again. The house has been up on blocks for the past two years.

Trustees, Scott and village residents at the meeting were concerned about the safety issues surrounding the property.

"What if someone gets underneath?" Bibeau questioned, to which a murmur of agreement rose through the audience.

"That and school is starting again," Arthur commented. "There's going to be kids around." The property is behind the St. Croix Central Middle School building.

Public Works Director Rod Turk told the board that his department has been mowing the grass around it this summer. Those costs will be assessed to Maple, but it still takes employees' time to do.

Scott said he would look into grounds for issuing a raze order on the property.