POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, May 31, 2011
A proposal to allow storage on Oahu of consumer fireworks that are banned here but can be legally sold on the neighbor islands appears to have the support of the City Council, despite opposition from Honolulu public safety officials.
The vote could be close.
Bill 38 advanced out of the Council's Executive Matters and Legal Affairs Committee this month with three of the nine Council members voting in opposition.
Public safety authorities have raised concerns about theft and the illegal spread of such products on Oahu, where a total ban on everything but firecrackers took effect this year.
"We're advising you, for public safety's sake, don't have storage for consumer fireworks here," Honolulu Fire Department Battalion Chief Socrates Bratakos testified at a recent committee hearing.
Supporters say Bill 38 will clarify the city's fireworks ban and address an issue raised in a recent lawsuit against the city.
By law, fireworks that may be sold legally on the neighbor islands may no longer be warehoused or stored on Oahu. The city has been sued by one company — American Promotional Events Inc.- Northwest, a fireworks import and wholesale company that does business as TNT Fireworks — which said it completed significant upgrades at its Honolulu storage facility to comply with storage regulations before the fireworks ban on Oahu took effect.
Fire officials said about a dozen other retailers have complied with the law and moved their storage of fireworks off Oahu.
James Pacopac, a representative of American Promotional Events — a fireworks distributor — told lawmakers the company supports Bill 38, adding that the restrictions allow for inspections of the warehouse at any time to ensure all products are accounted for.
"All we're asking for is to let us do business in our warehouse," Pacopac said.
Executive Matters Chairman Romy Cachola recommended passage of the bill, saying he hopes to strike a compromise that allows for business to continue and potentially save taxpayer dollars on legal fees and a potential verdict against the city.
Among those who voted against the bill in committee was Councilwoman Tulsi Gabbard.
"I'm bothered by the fact that I feel like we are being somewhat bullied into passing legislation to avoid a lawsuit," Gabbard said.
Bratakos urged lawmakers to keep the total ban in place on Oahu and give it a chance to work.
Bill 38 is scheduled for a final vote at the next regular meeting of the full Council on Friday.