It's time to stop illegal fireworks
If social media is any indicator, a whole lot of Palm Coast residents are very fed up with the year-after-year blatant disregard of our local fireworks ordinance and the continual inaction by our Sheriff’s Office to enforce the law.
The local ordinance forbids without a permit all fireworks that explode or fly off the ground at any time of the year.
Unfortunately, however, a review of hundreds of illegal fireworks-related complaints called into the Sheriff’s Office around July 4 and New Year's Eve over multiple years revealed that there have been no citations issued, no arrests, and no confiscations of illegal fireworks. There may never have been.
This problem is mainly attributable to inconsiderate bad neighbors flouting the law. But a contributing factor is our law enforcement agency that has created the perception that it doesn’t much care.
We should not have to continually endure a war zone-like atmosphere on these holidays. Our pets and wildlife should not have to endure the terror that the needless and insanely loud explosions cause and a significant portion of our population simply should not have to dread these holidays.
And we certainly should never have to accept that these neighborhood lawbreakers, who believe they are above the law, have won.
Since Palm Coast city taxpayers pay our county Sheriff’s Office to enforce certain local ordinances, we should implore our sheriff to enforce the fireworks ordinance, write at least a few citations, and maybe confiscate some illegally possessed fireworks.
It shouldn’t be at all difficult, with incessant loud explosions plentiful for days everywhere in our neighborhoods during these holidays.
Although such an enforcement effort won’t stop all the bad neighbors, if publicized, it may deter some and it may instill a little needed respect for the law.
To allow the blatant lawbreaking to continue unabated and unaddressed is not acceptable, sends the wrong message, erodes respect for the law and those who enforce it, and also makes for discord in our community.
Editor's note: The Sheriff's Office has records of one fireworks-related arrest, in 2017, and one ordinance violation citation, in 2019. There were 180 calls about fireworks in 2022, according to FCSO records.
On fireworks, FCSO follows current law
Each year on special celebrations, such as Independence Day and New Year’s Eve, the community celebrates with fireworks, resulting in letters to the editor and social media posts about the Sheriff’s Office not enforcing the laws. The Sheriff’s Office enforces the laws as our elected bodies have written them, not as I would like to see them written. Law enforcement does not make laws.
The sale and purchase of fireworks is legal in Florida, subject to local ordinances. Flagler County does not have an ordinance restricting the sale of fireworks. The city of Palm Coast controls the sale but does not prohibit the sales of fireworks.
As to igniting or using fireworks, Flagler County ordinance only limits the use of fireworks in public parks and recreational areas. There are no other restrictions. The City of Palm Coast does limit the use of fireworks within the city limits to individuals who seek and are granted a permit. A violation of these ordinances is a civil infraction, or the offense may be charged as a misdemeanor.
However, under Florida law and with few exceptions, law enforcement may not arrest for misdemeanors or issue civil infractions that did not occur in the law enforcement officer’s presence. The use of fireworks is not an exception under Florida law. This means that unless the illegal use of fireworks occurred in the presence of a deputy sheriff, we can not arrest or cite the offender.
Instead, if the person reporting and witnessing the violation of law is willing to sign an affidavit and testify in court, a deputy sheriff will take a report and file a charging affidavit with the State Attorney’s Office. The State Attorney’s Office will then decide whether or not to file charges.
In closing, it is not that we will not enforcement the ordinances and laws concerning fireworks, but instead the handcuffs the Florida Legislature placed on law enforcement across Florida that makes it impossible to enforce the fireworks law and ordinances as written.
I encourage you to contact your local and state representatives with your concerns. Until the law is changed, your deputies have been handcuffed to solve this quality-of-life issue when you call us about illegal fireworks exploding in your neighborhood.
Finally, because we handle over 120,000 calls for service a year we must prioritize calls for service. More serious calls that require immediate assistance are handled first. Lower priority calls, like firework complaints, are handled when units are available to respond. These responses can be delayed until after the fireworks have stopped, again making it impossible to enforce the existing laws because the violation must be witnesses by a deputy sheriff, unless the complainant is willing to be a witness and testify.
Flagler County sheriff
Be transparent on canal dredging costs
Dredging the entire saltwater canal system will be a project of immense proportions and expense for the city of Palm Coast.
Therefore, residents must be knowledgeable and involved in every aspect of any decisions in this matter. So far, the city has spent $200,000 on a ‘feasibility study,’ with minimal public input.
Now the city has hired an engineering firm to draft a dredging plan. It would be refreshing for the city staff to provide regular updates of just what is going on with our tax dollars.
My concerns are with the price tag and environmental impact. All sources of funding, such as federal, state, water management district and other grants, must be explored prior to any actions taken.
We need to know what we are on the hook for. The breakdown of who pays how much, such as canal homeowners and the rest of us, must be done in the light of day.
Perhaps the most expensive aspect of the project will be the safe disposal of the dredged material. It is polluted and must be treated and disposed of as a hazardous waste and cannot be used as spoil bank material anywhere, unless we want another "Love Canal" on our hands.
Lots of things are done without the public's voice heard; I hope this is not one of them.
Jeffery C. Seib