Monday evening the Belgrade City Council approved keeping its fireworks ordinance as is. No changes, no extra days, no ban.
Considering the attention the topic had garnered all summer, this vote was more of a whimper than a bang.
The Oct. 3 meeting was a long one, with the fireworks ordinance issue not coming to a vote until almost 10 p.m.
Council member Kris Menicucci started the discussion with a clarification of the council’s objections.
“I want clarification,” she said. “This had nothing to do with banning (fireworks). (But) do we leave it the same? Never the intention (to ban). That was one of the options. We look at our ordinances every once in a while — are we on track?”
In August, 130 people showed up at a city-wide forum to give their two cents worth on the current fireworks ordinance. The crowd was roughly a third in favor of a ban or shortened usage, and the rest in favor of the status quo.
The council voted 4-2 to keep the ordinance as is. Members Martha Sellers and Renae Mattimoe voted against that motion; Mike Meis, Jim Simon, Jim Doyle and Menicucci voted to leave it be.
Six residents spoke in favor of fireworks, including Clint Field, who has owned a fireworks stand in town for decades, and has been its most vocal proponent.
“I went door to door, business to business,” he said, showing the council the petitions he’d had signed to not ban fireworks. “Over 200 people signed a show of support. I’ve found overwhelming support to keep it the way it is.
“My business, I have to buy my products months ahead. I ask you to leave it as it is for calendar year 2023.”
Belgrade resident Dave Wooten said the council “asked us a month ago. You know how the public feels. This is crazy. Where the heck did this come from? Who wants to ban fireworks? Whose idea was this? Somebody not born in Bozeman; I’ll assume this came from out of state.”
In a motion to keep the old ordinance intact, Councilman Simon moved to leave it be until the year 2042, getting some laughs from the council. Later, City Manager Neil Cardwell clarified for the Belgrade News that “No, they can’t bind future councils. But it will be in the minutes and future councils can see the request.”
Ward 3 Council member Sellers said that night that “I don’t believe July Fourth should be celebrated this way.” She said that some residents of her ward feel the “length of time too long. PTSD, pets, I can’t take this. People move from their homes for a week or more to get through this. (Let’s) correct the time frame.”
Council member Meis added, “Passions on either side. Ultimately we’ll do what’s best for Belgrade. I think the ordinance should stay as is. Length OK. We stripped it back in 2003.”
Mayor Russ Nelson added, “I never said I wanted to ban fireworks. It’s been eye-opening the assumptions, what people believe. It’s not about taking away someone’s freedom. I don’t want to see someone’s house burn down. People need to follow the rules.”
Mennicucci said, “I’m frustrated with rumors. If you want us to keep it, don’t stoke the rumor mill. Just be aware there are people who struggle.”
According to the Belgrade city code, you can sell fireworks from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. from June 24 to July 5. Fireworks can be discharged from July 1-5 between 10 a.m. and 11 p.m.