After many continued deliberations and directions to city staff, the Porterville City Council unanimously agreed the draft fireworks ordinance presented to the council at the regular council meeting on Tuesday night was ready to move forward for a first reading.
A handful of fireworks ordinance drafts came before the Council, but none seemed to completely satisfy the council's concerns with fine amounts for violations or the proper parties to issue administrative citations to. After reviewing the item over the past few months, and providing direction to city staff as to how to modify the draft ordinance, Fire Marshal Clay Dignam presented the Council the accepted draft on Tuesday night.
The newest draft included flexibility in holding property owners liable as a responsible party for a violation committed on their property under certain circumstances. At previous meetings the Council received many comments from the public expressing concern about citing property owners who aren't present on their property and don't directly deal with the property or the tenants.
To avoid citing property owners who are obviously not responsible for the violation, the following clarification was added to the draft ordinance: “The City, in its discretion, may opt to not hold a private property owner liable… if the owner can demonstrate that at the time of such violation if they: a. had rented or leased the property to another, b. were not present, c. had no prior knowledge of, or reason to know of the violation, and d. there has been no prior notice of violation or citation issued to the particular occupant at the premises.”
The draft also clarified the proposed fine amounts are maximum fine amounts and allows the city to go about recovering the cost of enforcement as far as allowed by law.
The draft ordinance proposed the following fine amounts for fireworks ordinance violations committed within the City of Porterville: $1,000 for the first violation, $2,500 for the second offense within 3 years of the first violation, and $5,000 for every subsequent offense that occurs within 3 years of the previous violation.
The draft ordinance also proposed the following fine amounts for those caught with illegal fireworks: $2,500 for the first offense, $5,000 for the second offense within 3 years for the first, and $10,000 for every subsequent offense that occurred within 3 years of the previous violation.
Dignam informed the Council staff is proposing additional amendments to the administrative citation ordinance to allow for a hardship waiver for those who can't make the advance deposit for an appeal hearing. City attorney Julia Lew explained they want to add the waiver because the current ordinance requires an advance deposit of the fine, but the change will apply to all administrative citation appeal hearings. This would have to be held as a separate agenda item as it wouldn't be included in the fireworks ordinance.
When the discussion was opened to the Council there were no questions, and each Council member stated their satisfaction with the document as it was presented.
Vice Mayor Martha Flores, standing in for Mayor Monte Reyes who stepped out of the Council Chambers due to conflict with the item, directed city staff to bring the item back to Council for a first reading at the Council at the next meeting. If approved, the ordinance will go into effect 30 days after the second reading.