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City to consider fireworks sales
Jan 12, 2013 4:00 pm
The Lebanon City Council will consider final passage of an ordinance Tuesday to allow the sale and use of fireworks within the city limits despite an arguably deceptive advertising campaign opposing the measure.
The idea of fireworks sales in the city has stirred a bit of controversy in November with Lebanon police Chief Scott Bowen expressing concern about sales inside the city limits. He said he sees both sides of the issue, but his main concern is safety. He worries about his officers in light of a 2000 incident when fireworks were shot at his officers, injuring two. Ultimately, he thinks the ordinance will pass.
"I understand the economic side of the question," Bowen said. "I trust the council will make sure we don't have those fly-by-night places selling them."
The issue has also come under scrutiny following an advertisement that appeared this week in The Lebanon Democrat touting the dangers of fireworks and the number of people injured by them. The ad also lists phone numbers and email addresses for city councilors and Mayor Philip Craighead, urging the public to call them and "voice your objection." The ad was attributed to "City of Lebanon Concerned Citizens Against Fireworks," a group that cannot be contacted via phone or email.
The ad was bought and designed by Roger Lloyd, who is listed online as the president of Mid-America Distributors of La Vergne, one of the largest fireworks distributors in the area. When asked, Lloyd was less than forthcoming about his reasons for taking out an ad to discourage councilors from voting to allow fireworks in the city when he profits from fireworks sales.
"I'd like to keep my name out of it," he said. "I had my own reasons."
When asked if his own reasons included cutting down on the competition for his business, he hedged again, saying he had his own reasons. Lloyd declined to say what those reasons might be.
As for the "City of Lebanon Concerned Citizens Against Fireworks," Lloyd said the fireworks issue in the city "came up so quickly there was no organization with a president or vice president." He also didn't answer when asked who else was a member of the organization, saying only "there are a lot of people opposed to fireworks sales."
Lloyd didn't see anything wrong with his ad citing the dangers of fireworks with lines such as "About 40 percent of persons injured from fireworks are children ages 15 years and younger."
"I just produced the statistics," Lloyd said.
Councilor Kathy Warmath, who originally proposed the resolution to allow fireworks sales in the city, said Lloyd's advertisement was a "deceptive tactic" designed to increase his own profits.
"That ad was a wolf in sheep's clothing. He always has four tents just outside the city limits and no competition," Warmath said. "But we're opening this up for others."
Warmath said the fireworks sales, if approved, would involve dealers who are licensed, regulated with safety a paramount concern, and the fire marshal doing the permitting.
The ordinance's initial final reading was broached at the council's December meeting when Councilor Rob Cesternino moved to defer the vote until a revised proposal could be formulated.
Warmath's argument is that other cities allow fireworks and they are sold in the county, just outside the city limits. She said forbidding them inside the city only keeps city businesses from making money and does not keep them out of the city since the fireworks are easily accessible. She said parents are responsible for supervising their children when it comes to fireworks.
"Parents have to supervise their children with them the same way they would if they had a BB gun," she said.