Broken Arrow fireworks ordinance may go back on ballot
By John Dobberstein, Editor
The Broken Arrow City Council is slated to discuss Tuesday whether or not to put the city’s fireworks ordinance back on the ballot this fall.
The council is expected to decide whether to authorize a special election on Nov. 8 asking voters if discharging fireworks in the city should be allowed with a permit and a fee attached.
Here is the wording for the proposition, as of now:
“Shall the City of Broken Arrow allow fireworks to be discharged by individuals with a permit for a reasonable and nominal fee for the permit to cover the costs of enforcement and permit processing within the city limits of Broken Arrow?”
In 2006, the City Council passed ordinance No. 2822 calling for an election to decide whether people can discharge fireworks with a permit in the city limits. The proposition passed by a vote of 14,795 in favor and 8,985 against.
The language for the 2022 proposal is similar but adds language that would stipulate a fee.
During the last 16 years, city officials have received mixed opinions on the success of permitted fireworks discharge. Some have questioned the level of enforcement and the fate of the money collected by fines associated with violations.
At the April 19 City Council meeting, there was discussion about the history of the ordinance and Broken Arrow Police Chief Brandon Berryhill gave a report on the call volume and citations given in the past.
Last month, Ward 4 City Council member Scott Eudey said the fireworks ordinance should go back on the ballot to determine the will of the public.
The original intent years ago was for the fees to pay for off-duty police officers to go out and work those shifts. In the early years, police and fire officials worked overtime shifts for enforcement.
|FIREWORKS DATA, 2004-2008|
|FIREWORKS DATA, 2017-2022|
Source: City of Broken Arrow
But in the last few years the number of fireworks permits requested by residents has gone up and fireworks complaints have decreased. Enforcement has declined dramatically.
From 2005-08, the average number of citations written annually for fireworks violations was 44, but only 3 citations have been issued between 2017 and 2022.
Just for the last 2 years, the city has generated $82,170 in fees for 3,735 permits issued, but only 2 citations have been issued.
Based on available data and using averages of permits and fees for missing years, the city has likely raked in at least $500,000 in fees since 2005 when permits were first collected. Permit fees were $20 initially and were increased to $22 sometime in the last few years.
The police and fire departments have been grappling with manpower shortages and retirements in recent years, which has stretched their resources thin as they try to cover a city of 62 square miles.
Berryhill noted the fireworks ordinance is difficult enforce, often because calls come in bunches and that create challenges for officers trying to respond to them all in a timely manner.