WALWORTH — Shooting off fireworks, of any type, is not allowed in the village of Walworth.
Now neither is selling.
The village’s definition of a firework includes “anything manufactured, processed or packaged for exploding, emitting sparks or combustion which does not have another common use” according to ordinance 2016-20.
That definition includes sparklers, any ground-bound, smoke-emitting device with no external flame, cylindrical fountains not exceeding 100 grams in total weight and a cone fountain not exceeding 75 grams in weight as fireworks.
The newly enacted ordinance, besides sharpening the definition of a firework, also said no person could sell fireworks within the village of Walworth.
However, two residents, Diana James and Michael Cornellier, disagree.
The pair, as part of the Big Top Fireworks Co., sells what was once considered to be non-fireworks, like fountains, smoke cones and sparklers.
Because of the ordinance change, the village does not allow what they’re selling.
James and Cornellier wrote a letter to the village expressing their concerns, in addition to attending the general services meeting on Thursday, March 9.
“We have been setting up at True Value for 15 years,” Cornellier said. “We sell nonfirework items and that is all we have ever offered for sale in the village of Walworth. Our question is why did you feel like what we are doing is wrong? We’ve done everything the village has asked us to do.”
Village Trustee Ed Snyder said the ordinance was enacted to be consistent with other village laws.
“When we approved it, it was because before, it was contrary to town laws,” Snyder said. “Why would we let people sell fireworks when it is against the law to use them?”
Trustee Tom Connelly agreed, and said the board didn’t want fireworks, of any type, in the village.
“We don’t see them bringing any value to the community,” he said. “That is our opinion and that is why, when it went to the village board, it passed 6-1.”
Connelly said Walworth was one of the last remaining villages in the county to allow firework sales prior to the ordinance change.
“Walworth was the last stand of firework sales, so to speak,” Connelly said. “Fontana and Williams Bay have done this and I have to believe it is for good reason. It’s hard to make a case when you allow something on one side of the law and ticket on the other.”
Police Chief Andy Long agreed, and said that the intent of the ordinance is to halt the sale of all fireworks, regardless of how big or small.
“We are one of the last villages in the area that still would’ve allowed it,” he said. “No one else does it now.”
Cornellier disagreed with the rule change and insisted that banning previously defined nonfireworks will lead to more firework problems for the village.
“It will get worse,” he said. “When nonfireworks are not allowed to be sold in the community, people will leave Walworth to purchase items, and they are going to find the actual fireworks and bring them back to the community. If they can purchase nonfirework items where they live, they won’t purchase bigger items.”
Long disagreed and said the village will still get bigger fireworks, no matter what the selling rules are.
James said the ban would hurt their business and argued that the nonexplosive, ground-bound fireworks they sell are family friendly and safe.
“We ask that you allow nonfirework items to be sold in the village and ban actual fireworks,” she said. “We don’t want to sell things that explode. We’ve only sold stuff that sparks, stays on the ground and smokes.”
Snyder’s personal opinion wasn’t swayed.
“We don’t want fireworks to be sold in our village anymore, period,” he said. “That was the intent of the ordinance and we are using fireworks as a general term. In our opinion, that is sparklers, too. And Sentry can’t sell sparklers, either.”
Snyder said that James and Cornellier’s arguments called for the village to clear up the ordinance’s language, however.
“We can revisit the ordinance to make sure it is inclusive,” he said. “We will update the ordinance and send it to our attorney for full review.”