Council votes to charge nonprofits for fireworks sales

The Huntington Beach City Council voted Tuesday to charge almost $6,000 to each of the nonprofit organizations looking to obtain permits for selling fireworks in Huntington Beach this Fourth of July.

The resolution to establish the charge was approved, with Mayor Don Hansen and Councilman Matthew Harper opposing. Councilman Devin Dwyer was absent.

The $56,000 estimated cost for police and fire services and signage needed for the legalization of fireworks will be divided between the 10 organizations that will be permitted to sell the so-called "safe and sane" fireworks.

That's in addition to about $600 in administrative fees that will be charged to each of the organizations to obtain the permit to set up a fireworks booth.

The bill for the majority of the regulatory fee will not be sent until August.

The following year, the city will limit the charges to nonprofits to less than 10% of their profits.

The council in January voted to lift the ban on the usage and sale of state-approved fireworks during the Fourth of July holiday. The lift is for a trial period of two years.

The move, however, was met with strong opposition from both the police chief and fire chief, and many residents who said the lift is likely to strain the public safety departments' resources. The temporary lift may also allow those who use illegal fireworks to hide behind it, they contended.

The money the city is charging will cover costs of extra street sweeping after the holiday is over. It will also be used for police and fire suppression teams, who will be stepping up the efforts to avoid major fires or illegal activities.

Hansen was the one who pushed to lift the fireworks ban. He, along with Harper, voted against charging the organizations for the city's costs.

Hansen suggested that the police and fire departments lower the number of suppression teams to bring down the cost on nonprofits.

But Councilman Joe Carchio, a strong supporter of legalizing fireworks in the city, said he wants to make sure the city covers its bases.

"We really want to make this thing work," he said. "I don't want to cut back just a little bit, say on the suppression teams, and end up having something going wrong and lose on the second year of the pilot. I'm willing to spend an extra few dollars to make sure everyone is safe."

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