POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Apr 21, 2011
The City Council has reopened the city’s fireworks law to deal with storage issues raised by a recent lawsuit.
While the bill introduced yesterday is narrow in scope, it leaves open the possibility of revisiting the fireworks ban the Council approved last year. Once that happens, amendments and changes could be introduced at any point in the process.
The bill comes before the Council two weeks after a explosion at a fireworks storage facility in Waikele that killed five people.
Councilman Stanley Chang said he introduced the measure at the request of a constituent to discuss storing fireworks on Oahu and to invite testimony from all parties.
“Anything beyond that is beyond the scope of this bill and would not be part of this discussion,” Chang said.
The city’s fireworks ban, which took effect this year, prohibits importing, storing, selling, offering for sale or keeping consumer fireworks except for firecrackers without licenses or permits.
Bill 38-11 would address issues raised in a lawsuit filed last week by American Promotional Events Inc.-Northwest, a fireworks import and wholesale company that does business as TNT Fireworks. The company says it stands to lose $800,000 worth of fireworks in its warehouse near Honolulu Airport intended for sale on the neighbor islands, where they are still legal.
The bill would permit storage of fireworks on Oahu if the items aren’t sold on the island.
TNT says it invested more than $750,000 to improve its Oahu warehouse for storing the fireworks because it has not found suitable storage facilities on neighbor islands, but storing the fireworks on Oahu is illegal under the new law.
TNT’s licenses for importing, wholesaling and storing consumer fireworks expired March 31. It applied for new licenses on March 16, but the city has not yet reissued them and said it cannot guarantee that the company will not face criminal and civil penalties while officials deliberate applications.
The bill now goes to the Council’s Executive Matters and Legal Affairs Committee.
Council members agreed unanimously to advance the bill, although some said they had not had time to review the measure because it was introduced minutes before the start of yesterday’s meeting.
Councilwoman Tulsi Gabbard Tamayo said she also had reservations about the measure because of the deadly explosion April 8 at the Waikele Business Center. Donaldson Enterprises had a permit from the Fire Department to store the fireworks at the underground facility at Waikele.