Illegally discharging fireworks could get you a $500 fine

Ginger Olsoy and Jake Englet were staffing the Kiwanis sponsored fireworks booth in the lot of the State Avenue Safeway. Englet believes that ultimately sales will be affected by new city fireworks rules. - TOM CORRIGAN The Marysville Globe
Ginger Olsoy and Jake Englet were staffing the Kiwanis sponsored fireworks booth in the lot of the State Avenue Safeway. Englet believes that ultimately sales will be affected by new city fireworks rules.
— image credit: TOM CORRIGAN The Marysville Globe

MARYSVILLE Late last month, City Council adopted new rules designed at making it more practical for police to hand out fines for use of illegal fireworks in the city.

So-called "safe and sane" fireworks are legal to use in Marysville between on 9 a.m. and 11 p.m. on July 4 only. According to information provided by the city, the same fireworks are legal in surrounding unincorporated areas of Snohomish County from 9 a.m. to 11:59 p.m., again only on July 4.

In the city, police now can hand out civil citations for illegal use of fireworks. In the past, fireworks offenses were strictly criminal offenses. Although the potential $500 civil fine is less than the possible criminal penalties, several officials said they expect enforcement of fireworks rules to increase.

"I think we will be out there a little stronger," Police Chief Rick Smith said immediately after Council adopted the civil penalties.

Smith added what the new rules mainly accomplish is to give police an alternative to slapping alleged fireworks offenders with a criminal citation.

Several City Council members said police were sometimes hesitant to hand out such offenses, possibly burdening the suspect with a criminal record for blowing off the wrong types of fireworks or for using fireworks outside of the specified times.

City Council members also said criminal citations take police a lot longer to process than civil violations. According to City Councilwoman Carmen Rasmussen, among others, that's time officials feel police could put to better use.

If they deem the offense is a severe one, police still will have the option of citing fireworks offenders with either a misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor. A normal misdemeanor carries with it penalties of up to $1,000 in fines and 90 days in jail. The harsher gross misdemeanor charge can result in a $5,000 fine and up to one year in jail.

As of the deadline for this issue of The Globe, Marysville police did not return several phone calls requesting information on how many of the new civil violations they had issued.

On the Tulalip Reservation, the annual Boom City was up and operating June 13, according to the Tribes' Mike Dunn. Dunn is one of several organizers of Boom City, this year a collection of 155 fireworks stands set up behind the Tulalip Resort Hotel and Casino.

So far, according to Dunn, the new Marysville rules have not affected fireworks sales on the reservation. In town, several fireworks stands are in operation along State Avenue.

For the most part, the Marysville stands are fundraisers for local community organizations, perhaps most notably including the Marysville Kiwanis. While Boom City has been operating for several weeks, Kiwanis President Dave Voight said Marysville doesn't allow stands in the city to open until a short time prior to July 4.

This year, Marysville stands opened June 28.

As stands had been operating only a few days, Voight said June 30 it was too early to comment much on sales. The Kiwanis Club actually operates several Marysville stands, turning profits over to the groups who run them.

At a stand set up in front of the Safeway store on State, Jake Englet feels that ultimately the new city rules will have a chilling effect on sales.

"I think in the end it will, I don't see how it can't," he said.

Early June 30, Englet was on duty at the stand with another volunteer, Ginger Olsoy. She said sales were about normal on the first day the stand was open, but then slowed the following.

"I think it was the heat," Olsoy said, referring to the high temperatures that hit June 29.

Both Englet and Olsoy said visitors to their booth seem well aware of Marysville's new rules. At the very least, customers know the city changed its approach to fireworks. Along with other Kiwanis-sponsored booths, the stand is handing out flyers that explain the new regulations, as well as the long-standing prohibitions against certain types of fireworks.

Basically, Marysville bans firecrackers, bottle rockets and aerial rockets and salutes. So-called tennis ball bombs also are illegal.

A tennis ball bomb is pretty much what it sounds like: a tennis ball filled with gun power, with a wick sticking out of it.

"What we sell are fireworks that are good for an urban environment," Voight said.

Still, minus the bottle rockets and firecrackers, the fireworks for sale in the city seem largely similar to those available at Boom City. For example, Olsoy pointed to a large, self-contained firework that boasted it contains the maximum charge allowed for a consumer firework.

Both Englet and Dunn talked about high gas prices possibly driving up consumer firework sales as residents might not want to burn a tank of gas in order to see a larger, municipal display. The city of Marysville itself does not sponsor a display.

At Boom City, Dunn said anyone worried about the new law or simply not wanting to take any chances, can blow off their fireworks in a roped off area near the reservation booths.

"And they can leave the mess here," Dunn said.

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