For years, Fayetteville residents have had to go outside the city limits to get a pack of Fourth of July bottle rockets, roman candles, or the mildly popular (and always disappointing) “Hen Laying Eggs.” Those days are over.
The City Council last night passed a revenue-generating ordinance allowing the sale of fireworks inside the city limits between June 28 to July 5. They even amended the original proposal to remove the restriction on the sale of aerial fireworks attached to a stick in an effort to collect even more tax dollars.
Staff expects to generate at least $18,000 in sales tax from fireworks and at about $7,000 in permit fees each year. The city plans to charge $500 per permit.
A few local fireworks vendors were in the audience to voice their concerns about the timing and research process of the ordinance. In late April, city staff met with Andy Clark, a Fayetteville resident and owner of Uncle Sam’s Fireworks, to determine what the city could expect in revenue.
Bruce Matthews, a long-time local fireworks vendor, praised the overall efforts of the ordinance, but felt that by contacting Andy Clark for research, the city had given Uncle Sam’s Fireworks a head start on securing locations inside the city limits.
“The three most important things in the fireworks business,” said Matthews, “are location, location and location.” Matthews said he wouldn’t be able to make up the time that Uncle Sam’s has had to investigate locations in order to compete with them this season, mostly because he has now secured locations outside the city limits. “Had I known that this was happening, I would have certainly taken some of my locations and moved them into the city. But I will not have that opportunity this year.”
Matthews suggested passing the ordinance, but asked that it not go into effect until next year in order to level the playing field.
Other vendors echoed Matthews’ timing concerns, but City Clerk Sondra Smith reminded the audience that council agendas are placed on the city’s website and can be viewed or requested offline at any time. Chief of Staff Don Marr noted that this specific information could have been viewed online as early as nine days after Uncle Sam’s was contacted.
Council members Robert Rhoads and Brenda Thiel agreed with Matthews and offered an amendment to wait until next year, but ultimately, the council voted to begin sales this June.
It is still technically unlawful to use “skyrockets” and “firecrackers or any other exploding fireworks” within the Fayetteville city limits, however, city staff says an ordinance addressing this issue will soon be brought to the council.