The Sidney City Council is considering amending a local ordinance to change the days when people can purchase and activate fireworks within city limits. If the ordinance changes it will affect New Year’s Eve 2020 and Fourth of July 2021.
Currently, fireworks selling periods within Sidney city limits are June 24 to July 5, and December 29–31. These dates mirror state laws concerning the sale of fireworks.
The city of Sidney is asking citizens to respond to a “Fireworks Petition” on its website, or on the Sidney Herald Facebook page. Actually, it is more of a survey than a petition; as one local official explained, the city currently is in an exploratory phase.
However, if the city council votes to change the dates when fireworks can be sold and the times they are allowed to be discharged within city limits, the existing ordinance will have to be amended.
The petition is at city hall, or it can be accessed online at http://www.cityofsidneymt.com.
Sidney residents can also complete one of two petitions on the Sidney Herald Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/sidney.herald
The first petition reads:
“To keep the current laws for selling and discharging of Fireworks (June 24th to July 5th) with the change that fireworks can be discharged on weekends and the Holiday until midnight (currently 10 pm).”
The second petition reads:
“To CHANGE the current laws for selling and discharging of Fireworks (June 24th to July 5th) to July 1st to July 5th and change that fireworks can be discharged on weekends and the Holiday until midnight (currently 10 pm).”
Neither petition addresses New Year’s Eve selling or discharging dates — currently December 29–31 — or times for discharging fireworks.
Big Sky, Big Night
Under both petitions, the time for when people are allowed to discharge fireworks during the Fourth of July holiday would change from 10 p.m. to midnight. However, a city spokesperson said it is possible the city council could vote to change the allowable dates for selling and discharging fireworks but keep the existing cut-off time of 10 p.m.
“Everything is on the table,” said Sidney Treasurer/Clerk Jessica Chamberlin, noting the petition is for “advisory” purposes only.
According to Chamberlin, the Sidney City Council will take into consideration responses to the petition when it votes on whether to change its long-standing local fireworks ordinance.
“This is actually something the city council has [considered] every year,” said Chamberlin, alluding to the possibility of limiting the days and expanding the hours people can discharge fireworks within city limits over the Fourth of July.
This year, city officials decided to launch a petition to get a perspective of “what everyone wants, and not just based on the people who come to meetings,” Chamberlin explained.
“The biggest point that the [city council] committee had is, ‘Is this a good way to get a gauge of what everybody in the community wants?’” the city treasurer/clerk said.
“We haven’t had any issues with the vendors with rules or violations,” Chamberlin prefaced, noting there currently are seven fireworks vendors in Richland County, five of which operate within Sidney.
A city and county fire marshal inspects all fireworks vendors, she noted.
“I have not heard a single thing about completely banning them,” Chamberlin said of fireworks sales in Sidney. In fact, she reported vendors appear to be OK with the possible changes.
There is one key aspect to all of this that will impact vendors. Any changes to the existing ordinance will require local vendors to obtain licenses. However, Chamberlin said that if all fireworks vendors are required to obtain licenses, the city council will consider waiving licensing fees for Sidney-based “solicitors.”
• August 15: Sidney “Fireworks Petition” will close.
• August 17: Results of “Fireworks Petition” will be publicly announced; a city council committee will begin discussions about the petition and the existing ordinance.
• September 7: Sidney City Council will vote on whether to amend the existing fireworks ordinance.
• September 8: A mandatory 30-day waiting period begins before the existing ordinance can be changed, allowing time for public comments and a requisite second vote by the city council.
How Montana Compares
Montanans enjoy some of the least restrictive laws in the nation when it comes to the sales of fireworks. Although Montana state law currently prohibits the sale and use of skyrockets, roman candles and bottle rockets, Montana is among almost two dozen states considered to have the least restrictive laws in the nation pertaining to the sale and use of fireworks.
States with least restrictive fireworks laws:
Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington and Wyoming.
States that ban fireworks sales altogether:
Delaware, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York.