Fireworks rule dropped

The bombs will burst in the air for a Freeland wedding despite opposition by the Island County Sheriff.

On Monday, Island County Board of Commissioners unanimously overturned Island County Sheriff Mike Hawley’s denial of a 10-minute fireworks show scheduled at the Oct. 9 wedding of a Freeland couple. The move comes two months after the sheriff called a halt to all fireworks shows, except those scheduled for New Year’s and the Fourth of July.

With Monday’s decision, LeRoy “Mick” Olsen, of M.O.C Fireworks will be able to go ahead with the show. He said this week that he appealed the sheriff’s ruling to the county commissioners because fireworks are part of America’s heritage, are a livelihood for some people, and are safer than allowing private people to shoot illegal fireworks and should not be restricted.

As part of the commissioner’s decision, the Olsens must pay $50 to advertise the show in The South Whidbey Record and forfeit a deposit of $500 in the event the show lasts over

12 minutes.

The county’s three commissioners stated Monday that the Oct. 8 show will be a test case for allowing out-of-season fireworks. If there are complaints, the commissioners may hold public hearings to decide whether a county-wide ordinance is needed to limit the times at which fireworks shows will be allowed.

According to the Island County law, Sheriff Hawley has the legal discretion to decide whether to grant a permit for a private fireworks show. Permits for these shows cost $10. Currently, both large and small fireworks — depending on the type — can be used June 28 through July 6 and Dec. 31 through Jan. 1, with only minimal restrictions.

Hawley rejected Olsen’s request on Sept. 10 because he said with the exception of the Fourth of July and New Year’s Eve shows, the community is often unaware that a fireworks show is planned. In these instances in the past, Island County’s 911 dispatchers have been barrages with noise complaints.

Hawley said one of these shows can cost his office when deputies have to be sent out to investigate fireworks-related 911 calls. He said banning fireworks shows during most of the year is primarily a budgeting concern for his office.

“I’m not opposed to fireworks, I love fireworks,” Hawley said. “I’m at the point where I don’t have the resources.”

Olsen said he agrees with all of Hawley’s concerns, but disagreed with placing restrictions on the shows, which are a money-making proposition for pyrotechnicians.

He said he plans to use 3-inch fireworks shells for the upcoming show. The shells are smaller than those used at this year’s July 3 “Celebrate America” show at Freeland Park.

Even with this downsizing, he said some people will still object to the noise.

“You can control the noise to a point, but you’ve got to have it,” Olsen said.

Commissioner Mac McDowell motioned to reverse Sheriff Hawley’s decision provided Olsen advertises the show and provides the $500 deposit.

Even with advertising, Hawley said the word does out get out about out-of-season fireworks shows. He said many people only spend weekends on Whidbey Island and are unaware of any out-of season shows because they don’t read the newspaper.

The move to ban out-of-season fireworks stems from a fireworks show at Useless Bay in August 2003. Hawley said the 45 minute private fireworks show — which was not put on by M.O.C. fireworks — generated several hundred complaint calls.

Since then, he has asked the commissioners several times for a more restrictive law.

Mick Olsen’s son Leroy Olsen, will shoot the Oct. 8 fireworks from either a private dock or a barge.

See the show, if you want

The fireworks show for the Freeland couple will take place on Oct. 9 sometime between 7-8 p.m. on either a private dock near Freeland’s Bercot Road or from a barge in Holmes Harbor.

Wedding to have fireworks

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