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North Tonawanda voices discontent with fireworks legislation

Fri, May 15th 2015 07:00 am

By Autumn Evans

Tribune Editor

The North Tonawanda Common Council is speaking out against a resolution passed in the Niagara County Legislature Tuesday allowing the sale of sparklers and novelty fireworks in the weeks surrounding the Fourth of July and New Year's Day.

The bill, sponsored by legislators Richard Updegrove and John Syracuse, allows nonexplosive novelty fireworks to be sold between June 1 and July 5 and between Dec. 26 and Jan. 2 each year. It passed 9-6. The six "nays" came from Mark Grozio, Owen Steed, Minority Leader Dennis Virtuoso and Jason Zona, all representing districts in Niagara Falls, as well as legislature Chairman Bill Ross, representing parts of Wheatfield and Lewiston, and Michael Hill, representing Royalton, Hartland and parts of Lockport.

NT Fire Chief John Lapham visited the Common Council at its Tuesday work session to urge the aldermen to look into home rule, to allow the city to pass its own ordinance banning the sale and possession of novelty fireworks in the city. Lapham said he spoke with department heads, the police chief, code enforcement and fire prevention in the city, all of whom were against the county legislation.

"They say (a sparkler is) no worse than a match," he said. "I don't let my kids play with matches."

Lapham also questioned the financial benefits of the measure and how many fireworks would have to be sold to generate enough sales tax for the city to profit. He noted the legislation predicts revenue increases for the state, but only marks county and municipality profits as a possibility.

"They'd have to sell a whole lot of fireworks in six weeks to make any kind of money," Lapham said. "And what is a child's life worth? For pennies?"

Council President Russ Rizzo said he was surprised at the legislation passing, given the opposition he saw at a FASNY convention in Cambria last month.

"They were dead set against it, they were gonna fight it as far as they could go, and yet it still went through," he said.

County fire departments, both paid and volunteer, unanimously opposed the bill.

The council itself unanimously supported Lapham's views and agreed to pursue the matter.

"This would be a public safety risk I wouldn't want to see in North Tonawanda," Alderman Eric Zadzilka said.

In other council news:

•Mayor Art Pappas brought up the idea of a memorial walkway in honor of children who have passed away. He said he was recently approached by a mother looking to memorialize her son, which led him to think of a way the city might dedicate an area for all local families who have lost children.

"It would give those parents and families a permanent memorial to their lost child," Pappas said.

Pappas suggested the walkway be built in Brauer Park, behind the veterans memorial area. He said he spoke to the city engineer and determined it was feasible. With the council's support, Pappas was given the go-ahead to form a committee to finalize the project and determine specifications.

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