Whitehall-Coplay Press

Monday, March 25, 2019

Board talks time limit for fireworks

Wednesday, March 6, 2019 by KATHY LAUER-WILLIAMS Special to The Press in Local News

Township ordinance would include $1,000 fine if set off after 10:30 p.m.

Whitehall Township Board of Commissioners heard a proposed ordinance during its workshop meeting March 4 that would prohibit setting off fireworks after 10:30 p.m. in the township.

Since aerial fireworks, such as Roman candles and bottle rockets, were made legal in Pennsylvania in 2017, it has created something of a “war zone” in the township with people setting off fireworks at all hours, Commissioner Jeffrey Dutt said.

According to board President Dennis Hower, the new ordinance would follow the state laws on fireworks and add a time restriction. State law prohibits setting off fireworks within 150 feet of an occupied structure, in a vehicle or on public or private property, without the express permission of the property owner.

Hower said he is tired of being woken in the middle of the night by the sound of fireworks.

“People need to have common courtesy for their neighbors,” he said.

He said he had received calls complaining about fireworks being set off late at night from families of veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Commissioner Joseph Marx Jr. noted he believed the township was sending a mixed message, since it allows fireworks vendors to set up tents in the township but now is creating an ordinance limiting their use.

“We are just setting parameters when they can do it,” Dutt said, adding the $1,000 fine allowed in the ordinance “gives enforcement some teeth.”

“I think this is a good law,” he said.

The board also heard a proposed noise ordinance.

Commissioners started looking at a noise ordinance last fall, when the board got complaints about loud music from an event at Fullerton Memorial Park. Whitehall police were called, and nearby stores complained the noise was chasing customers away.

The new ordinance would address unnecessary noise as a nuisance and prohibit noise late at night.

Dutt said the wording of the law would leave enforcement to the discretion of the police.

The board also discussed a bill that would allow military service as an alternative to an associate degree or its equivalent (60 credit hours) from an accredited college or university required for candidates seeking employment on the police force.

Deputy Mayor John Meyers said the change, recommended by Police Chief Michael Marks and the civil service commission, would enlarge the pool of officer applicants.

Meyers said those with military experience would easily adapt to the type of duties required in police departments.

“A lot of military training is accredited even though, when they walk out after four years of service, they don’t have a degree,” Marx said. “But when they come in, they are not walking in green. You are getting someone who knows how to use a weapon.”

Meyers said candidates would still have to pass the civil service exam.

The next board meeting is 7 p.m. March 11.