By JOHN T. WARD
Days after a booming Fourth of July weekend, Red Bank officials said they’re ready to enforce a ban on unauthorized fireworks.
At their monthly workshop session Wednesday night, Mayor Pasquale Menna and council members outlined a proposed ordinance aimed at boosting enforcement of state law.
Menna said he had consulted with Mayor John Pallone of Long Branch and Mayor John Moor of Asbury Park on the topic because all three face similar quality-of-life issues arising from fireworks.
A fireworks ordinance, scheduled for introduction at the council’s July 21 session, “actually puts to pen and paper some of the issues that we’ve been trying to grapple with,” Menna said.
He called it “a valuable tool for us to at least be proactive for a change, and not say ‘the state permitted the sales, and so we want the state to change the law.’ Well, that’s never going to happen.
“Our residents want some sort of relief at 2 o’clock in the afternoon and 4 o’clock in the morning,” Menna said. Moreover, many people who set off fireworks “don’t clean up after their private shows,” leaving debris in streets and neighboring yards, he said.
A copy of the measure was not available.
A New Jersey law change signed by then-Governor Chris Christie in 2017 permitted the personal use of sparklers, poppers and other non-aerial “novelty” devices such as smoke balls, which had previously been outlawed.
Firecrackers, sky rockets and bottle rockets remained banned.
Still illegal, said said Councilman Michael Ballard, are “those that are rocket-propelled, that burst, that detonate, that are sent up in the air.”
“All this ordinance does is codify what the state what the state has already proclaimed,” said Ballard, who has complained of fireworks in the past.
“Fireworks are fantastic, they’re a nice sight, but they’re dangerous,” Ballard said. “They cause a lot of damage, they cause a lot of harm.”
He said borough Attorney Greg Cannon had found ordinances in New Jersey and elsewhere that we used to craft Red Bank’s proposed law.
Cannon called the approach “a really good first step” toward raising awareness and enforcing of the state law locally.
“If you can hear it, and you can see it over the trees in your backyard, it’s not permitted in the state of New Jersey,” said Fire Marshal Tommy Welsh.
“All us fire guys were against” the 2017 law change, he said, because they expected the public would cross into Pennsylvania to buy more dangerous fireworks and set them off in New Jersey. That appears to be happening, he said.
He said a “private” fireworks display in the River Plaza section of Middletown over the holiday weekend was so loud that borough residents believed the fireworks were going off in their neighborhood.
“The mortars were so big that the smoke was coming across the [Navesink] river, up the bank and onto Leighton Avenue,” he said.
“There’s a lot more of it than there ever was,” Welsh, a former fire chief, said of fireworks use, and the ordinance is “more backup and support, certainly appreciated.”
“The stuff you’re hearing the stuff you’re seeing, it’s illegal,” Welsh said. “You gotta remember, people can make these in their houses. People don’t know what they’re doing.”
The ordinance would allow him to seize fireworks at the owners’ expense, he said.
Ballard said that under the proposed ordinance, violations would be “a civil offense. Nobody’s going to get arrested or locked up,” and that summonses would be issued after a first warning.
“We’re not trying to make criminals out of uncles or dads who want to do a little fireworks,” he said. “We do want to keep residents safe, we do want to keep their property safe.”
The ordinance would not prohibit the borough from authorizing professionally managed fireworks displays, officials said.
The borough’s Animal Welfare Advisory Committee has been involved in drafting the ordinance, said Councilman Ed Zipprich.
Retailers must obtain permits to sell the “novelty fireworks” allowed under the state law require. With only three permits on file, Welsh said code enforcers ran spot inspections of 22 retail businesses last week, and found only one selling without a permit.
“We were shocked there weren’t that many people selling them,” he said. One reason, he said: “they’re really expensive.”