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City extinguishes firework sales

Businesses selling fireworks will not be able to sell them within city limits after the city commission rejected the sale Monday in a 3-2 vote. iStock Photo 1 / 2
The Dickinson City Commission voted 3-2 against allowing the sale of fireworks within city limits on Monday. Photo by Ellie Potter/The Dickinson Press2 / 2

On Monday, the Dickinson City Commission voted 3-2 against allowing the sale of fireworks within city limits.

In January, the commission approved a new ordinance put forth by the Dickinson Fire Department. Part of that ordinance made the sale of fireworks within city limits illegal, which was a change to the previous code. It also noted that the use of fireworks within city limits was also illegal, though this was part of the previous code.

The Dickinson City Commission opted to review the sale portion of this ordinance and heard testimony from the fire department, a fireworks store owner and the public before making their decision.

Mayor Scott Decker, commission vice president Klayton Oltmanns and commissioner Sarah Jennings all voted against allowing the sale in the city.

"When they originally brought it for us, I knew then that's exactly what we were voting for, so I wasn't changing my vote from what we did the first time (this year)," Oltmanns said.

Decker said he felt the same way, something he has stated in previous meetings before the commission decided to take another look at allowing the sale of fireworks.

Fire Chief Bob Sivak and Fire Marshal Mark Selle presented to the commission and advocated against allowing the sale of fireworks within city limits. The city did not allow for the sale of fireworks until 2011 when the city annexed land where an existing fireworks business existed, Selle said. They then amended the ordinance to allow the sale, which allowed other entities to come to the city to sell. They noted an uptick in the number of calls the fire and police departments responded to since the sale was legalized within city limits.

Selle said Grand Forks, Fargo, Bismarck and Minot do not allow the sale, use or possession of fireworks within city limits. In Mandan and West Fargo, the sale and possession of fireworks is illegal within city limits. There are exceptions for the possession and use depending on the date and time. Mandan also differentiates based on the type of fireworks. Williston was the only city the fire department researched where the sale is allowed, however, the use is limited by date and time, he said.

"I was open to reconsidering the vote in regards to business owners, however, I think after the presentations, it's just something I couldn't support from the city perspective," Jennings said. "For this one, I just needed to stick behind city staff. It was a tough vote, it was a very tough vote."

But commissioner Carson Steiner argued that the sale of fireworks within city limits would not affect their use in Dickinson.

"I don't see how you can tie a sales to a use problem," Steiner said. "If you move the sales structure 10 yards one way, you're still going to have the use problem you have."

He also argued that the city could collect the sales tax from these transactions, but only if they occurred within city limits, something that Kyle Thiel, the owner of Anthem Fireworks, agreed with.

"Sales taxes and permit fees are a benefit to the city," Thiel said in an email to The Press. "Sending retailers across the street does not prevent people from buying, having or using fireworks. On one side of the road, the city gets money. On the other side, it does not."

Thiel addressed the commission noting that he and the other fireworks business owners have signs posted in multiple places in their shops telling people that the fireworks are not to be used in town. Anyone outside of town is not subject to those same rules regarding signage, he said.

Decker pointed out that the increase in the calls for service could have simply been attributable to the oil boom, which brought in more people from other parts of the state and country who may not know the rules. This was also a population who may have been making more money in the oil fields to spend on things such as fireworks, he said.

Additionally, the commission unanimously approved the second reading of an ordinance that would lessen the penalty of using fireworks within city limits to an infraction, which could cost the perpetrator $150 but no jail time, said city attorney Haylee Cripe. Previously, the crime was considered a Class B misdemeanor under the fire code, meaning that a person could receive a $1,500 fine and 30 days in jail. The police do not usually work under the fire code, so issuing these citations was more complicated, she said. Now there is a set fine for officers to issue these citations, if they catch someone actually shooting off the fireworks.

Other commission news

The commission also approved the final reading and passage of the occupancy and hospitality tax ordinances. While the hospitality tax passed unanimously, Decker was the only opposition vote to the occupancy tax. In previous meetings, he stated he thinks the commission should amend the ordinance so the commission may determine the use of dollars in the visitor promotion fund when it reaches $600,000 rather than the $800,000 threshold that passed.

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