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Costa Mesa City Council approves fireworks sale change

Fireworks will sell a day earlier than last year and can be set off the weekend before the holiday.

May 03, 2011|By Joseph Serna, joseph.serna@latimes.com

COSTA MESA — The Fourth of July is growing in Costa Mesa.

In a 3-2 vote Tuesday night, with council members Wendy Leece and Eric Bever dissenting, the City Council approved permitting the sale of fireworks a day earlier than last year and allowing them to be set off the weekend leading up to the holiday, which falls on a Monday this year.

The move is expected to cost the city at least an additional $1,000 in cleanup, according to the council's staff report. There are potential costs from overtime for police or firefighters responding to incidents, officials said.

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In the face of overwhelming public resistance to the plan to allow fireworks celebrations for more days, Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer, Mayor Gary Monahan and Councilman Steve Mensinger approved the law.

Fireworks are now permitted for sale from 9 p.m. June 30 to the end of the day July 4. Fireworks can be set off from 4 to 10 p.m. July 1 to July 4.

"If there's a problem this year, let's go back and revisit this [next year]," Righeimer said.

The logic behind the move was clear by the few residents who spoke in favor the change: It generates money for youth programs and sports teams. With additional days to set off fireworks, the theory goes, more people will buy them.

Mensinger called it a "test" year and said youth groups are desperate for funding. Mensinger is involved in both Estancia High School football and Pop Warner football, both of which sell fireworks around the holiday.

Leece led the charge against the law, calling the move "greedy." She said the quality of life for fireworks opponents outweighed the sellers' needs.

No residents spoke against offering an extra day to sell fireworks, only the additional days of setting them off.

Just last year, the council extended the hours they could be sold. Local sports and community groups asked for more time so they could maximize their revenue in the difficult economy.

In all, 28 groups sold fireworks last year.

According to the staff report, police will likely have to field more fireworks-related complaints, which could slow response time to other emergencies. The situation was similar for firefighters, who would have to be ready for three more days of fireworks-related blazes and burns.

Garden Grove's fireworks ordinance parallels what Costa Mesa approved Tuesday. City Chief Executive Tom Hatch said statistics there show that police see increased calls in the days leading up to the Fourth of July, but not until the actual holiday is there major jump in calls to police.

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