Fireworks leave Merrillville residents cold
By Karen Caffarini Post-Tribune correspondent July 24, 2012 9:26PM
Updated: August 26, 2012 6:21AM
MERRILLVILLE — The Town Council may tweak its fireworks ordinance after hearing from a resident Tuesday who complained of neighbors lighting M80s, quarter sticks and other explosives for weeks before and after the July Fourth holiday, scaring the elderly and animals.
“In my neighborhood people shoot off fireworks at least three weeks before and three weeks after the holiday. The M80s and quarter sticks rattle the houses and set off fire alarms,” said Traci Stratten, who said there are a lot of elderly people living in her Lincoln Gardens neighborhood, including her father, who has Parkinson’s disease and a pacemaker.
Stratten said she also has to medicate her dog, who is afraid of the booms.
She said someone lit a quarter stick at 9 a.m. July 1, a Sunday, as she was sitting outside with her mother.
“I’m willing to sit down with anyone to figure out how to solve this problem,” she said.
Stratten suggested that since many of the fireworks are now legal in Indiana, the town might find a place where residents could shoot them off where residents wouldn’t be as affected.
But Councilman Donald Spann, D-1st, nixed that idea.
“I don’t want to give people a place to shoot fireworks. That would be telling them it’s OK,” he said.
Spann said this could be one of the problems discussed at a future Crime Watch meeting.
Council President Shawn Pettit, D-6th, suggested Stratten work with Spann, who heads the Council Affairs committee, to see how the matter could be addressed on the town level.
Councilman Tom Goralczyk, D-4th, said Stratten should also meet with Police Chief Joseph Petruch.
“Maybe we need to tweak the ordinance,” he said.
Petruch said there is nothing the town can do right now because Gov. Mitch Daniels decided to make fireworks legal in the state.
“It’s a sorry situation when the governor thinks more about the people who sell fireworks than our budget,” Petruch said.
In other matters, the council approved a rental agreement with the Northwest Indiana Regional Bus Authority in which the agency will occupy the former town engineer’s office at town hall for a rent of $500 a month.
The council noted the RBA was the only entity to submit a proposal to rent the available space.
Tim Brown, executive director of the agency, said its current office at the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission building in Portage was getting too expensive, costing about $1,200 a month for the office alone.
He said the RBA board would vote on the rent proposal Wednesday and hopefully would begin moving some items to the new location on Thursday.
Brown said the Merrillville Town Hall, 7820 Broadway, is a perfect location as it is centrally located and handicapped accessible. He added that the RBA board has been meeting at town hall.
The vote was 4-1, with Councilman Richard Hardaway, D-2nd, abstaining. Hardaway is president of the RBA board.