Port officials give cold shoulder to fire chief’s request for insurance requirement when issuing permits
Port Washington Fire Chief Mark Mitchell on Tuesday asked the Town of Port Washington board to require anyone obtaining a fireworks permit to provide an insurance waiver, saying the power behind some private fireworks shows is substantial.
Mitchell spoke in particular of a private show put on July 4 in the town, where he said the fireworks shot off didn’t look like the explosives that are offered at stands but instead appeared to be more professional pyrotechnics.
But town officials disagreed, saying that such a requirement would keep people from seeking the permits.
Town Supr. Mike Didier called the idea of an insurance requirement a “poison pill.”
“In my opinion, fireworks are as American as apple pie,” he said. “The people applying for permits are trying to be law-abiding citizens. If we require insurance, we’re just going to have people shooting them off illegally.”
In the Town of Cedarburg, where insurance is required for a fireworks permit, no one has sought the permit, Didier said, while the Town of Port issues at least four permits a year.
Most people are shooting off the fireworks they buy at stands, not professional-grade pyrotechnics, Didier added.
But Phil Bruno, who works for a fireworks company and serves as the Port fire department’s fireworks consultant, said even the fireworks sold at stands are more powerful than in the past, Bruno said.
“It’s the equivalent of a stick of dynamite,” he said. “The liability is tremendous.”
Most communities require insurance, Bruno added.
“I think you’re opening yourself up to a lot of liability if you don’t follow a couple steps that are really easy,” he said. “There’s a lot more to it (permits) than just signing a piece of paper and saying, ‘Have fun.’”
Town Chairman Jim Melichar said that when the town fashioned its fireworks permit requirements, there was a debate over whether it was even needed.
The Wisconsin Towns Association has said that if someone takes out a fireworks permit, the township is held harmless, Didier added.
However, he said, the town should amend its fireworks permit application because it does not ask the type and number of fireworks being shot off as required by the state.
In other town news, the board approved a contract with Ayres and Associates to design changes to the Ozaukee Interurban Trail bridge on Highland Road and prepare bidding documents for the work.
The project would eliminate the bridge on Highland Drive north of Town Hall, lowering the grade of the road by five to six feet and making it safer for both motorists and bicyclists.
The project would also address drainage concerns and ensure an adequate shoulder on the road.
Ayres and Associates will be paid a maximum $15,000 for the work.