published Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011

Dean pushes for East Ridge fireworks sales


by Chris Carroll
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    Tennessee state representative Vince Dean. Staff Photo by Patrick Smith

A city known for political fireworks has lobbied its state representatives to allow the real thing.

The state House Finance, Ways and Means Committee today is expected to vote on a bill by Rep. Vince Dean, R-East Ridge, to allow the sale of fireworks in East Ridge. Passage would move the bill to the House floor.

A former police officer, Dean said enforcing public safety doesn’t bother him so much as missing a revenue explosion dominated by rural counties. With specific exceptions under state law, vendors in Tennessee’s four largest counties — Shelby, Davidson, Knox and Hamilton — cannot sell fireworks.

“People shoot them off [in Hamilton County],” Dean said Monday. “You hear them on holidays. ... The issue is whether or not they can be sold. This is a revenue generator.”

And Georgia, which East Ridge borders, does not sell fireworks at all. East Ridge is the first city motorists see as they cross the Georgia-Tennessee border on Interstate 75 North.

The bill would not require fireworks sales in East Ridge, but its passage would let the City Council explore an untapped sales tax source.

“I don’t want something big, bright and gaudy out here ... but anything we can do to get revenue into the city,” Vice Mayor Larry Sewell said.

A fiscal note attached to the bill estimates East Ridge would receive a $14,180 sales tax boost annually if the state issues 10 permits to sell fireworks. The state stands to gain $44,100, according to the note.

East Ridge finished the most recent fiscal year with a $681,999 budget deficit — the largest hole for the city in at least two decades. The controversy spiked when councilmen blamed former City Manager William Whitson, who resigned and threatened litigation against the city until he got $62,500 in severance money.

Dean said “rural folks” in the Legislature have stonewalled the East Ridge fireworks bill in the past, but an amendment that would postpone the bill until July 1, 2012, has moved the bill “the farthest it’s ever gone.” Most rural counties — including Marion and Bradley counties — can sell fireworks and don’t want to lose the business.

“[The amendment] gives enough time for Marion County and some of the others to set up shop in East Ridge,” Dean said.

Dean has been less aggressive in moving a bill that would establish a uniform regulation scheme for statewide fireworks sales, allowing all local governments to decide on the sale, possession and use of fireworks.

“I think East Ridge is his priority,” said state Sen. Bo Watson, R-Hixson, who is co-sponsoring both bills. “Typically, you’re going to run your most important bill first.”

Possession of fireworks is the second bill’s sticking point. If a municipality permits sale and possession of fireworks, it may not prohibit the use of such fireworks.

But if a city only permits the sale of fireworks “and at least 55 percent of the sales go to residents of other states” or to people outside a city’s jurisdiction, then the city may prohibit the use of fireworks.

Contact Chris Carroll at ccarroll@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6610.

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bpqd said...

We do not need or want this nonsense in the area. The $14K it will bring in will be spent on public safety and medical emergency problems caused by our drunk and stupid residents equipping themselves with recreational pyrotechnics.

What an asinine proposal from someone who ought to know better.

We urge immediate withdrawal of this legislation and a public apology for its offer in the first place. What idiocy.

March 22, 2011 at 6:08 a.m.
chatttn said...

Bring it on! We could use the revenue. Many citizens of East Ridge use them to celebrate them anyway, no matter where they have to go to purchase them. So why not get the much needed tax dollars here at home instead of it going to neighboring counties?

March 22, 2011 at 9:31 a.m.
bpqd said...

We already need to remove the excessive tattoo parlors, check cashing scam stores, and the latest obscure fried food failed business from the area. We do not need to add fireworks.

We need to add reputable paycheck jobs with companies that require 14 to 16 years of education.

We do not need anything that will promote a good fleeing suspect or stupid criminal segment on the next episode of "Cops." Reject the fireworks. Get to work on serious job recruitment efforts.

If we want revenue, then we ought to be fabricating computer cards for one of these new startup ventures; or, something like it. We have smart people in the area. We do not need to appeal to base desires and our talent for doing stupid things with explosives in order to make a buck.

What an incredibly poor idea. Remove this fireworks nonsense immediately.

Promote the establishment of any kind of business --any kind-- that can hire people who have been educated at Chattanooga State, for example. A tax break, a grant, a low interest loan, a business incubator; anything that will employ East Ridge residents with something that looks like a stable and intelligent job that provides a genuine good or service: anything like that would be a huge improvement over this redneck fireworks proposal.

No doubt, the first sellers, and the first accidents, will involve gas stations in the area. Mark my words. It will only be a moment before alcohol, gasoline and M80 dynamite sections will all be sold in the same place. Probably with a free pack of cigarettes and a free lighter to ignite the whole conflagration.

When have we seen such excellent judgment as to promote the sale of alcohol, gasoline, and pyrotechnics all in the same location?

I think we only have a few Ph.D.s in the area. I doubt they'll be buying up most of the fireworks. Leading consumers will probably be people taking a break from their methamphetamine lab operations. Look forward to calamity.

Fireworks and pyrotechnics can be enjoyed with adequate risk controls and responsible use. None of our likely purchasers are going to do any of that. They will guzzle another six pack and then try to aim a Roman candle at the neighbor's cat. Someone will accidentally set a pile of leaves on fire, instead. That, or something like it will happen.

Not worth the shallow increase in funds, as they will all be immediately spent on responding to the disasters created by our own stupidity. Really, they may create debt. The fireworks fees may not adequately cover the increased use of public safety services.

Remove this fireworks nonsense immediately. Jobs that require education and training will be a better investment for the community. No one needs or wants this stuff.

I am shocked that anyone was so dumb as to propose it. Repeal immediately. No fireworks.

March 22, 2011 at 2:17 p.m.
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