Canton police acted properly in fireworks snafu
Sometimes trying to do a good deed can backfire, especially if shortcuts are involved.
The fizzled fate of fireworks this July 4 in Canton appears to be a case in point.
In this instance, nobody can fault the good intentions, which were to provide Canton residents a July 4 celebration befitting of the national holiday.
The idea was to have a surprise finale after a community gathering that was put on by the town’s mayor for the July 4 holiday.
Certainly nobody wanted to be a spoiler for this event, especially not the town police who were in an admittedly awkward position. There was excitement within the community about the fireworks after word was spread through social media, and the town mayor was in on the surprise.
The problem is, there’s a town ordinance prohibiting the discharge of certain fireworks without proof of insurance and a permit, rules that are in line with the state law. That permit process had not been followed.
When those in the police department saw a Facebook photo of the fireworks to be used for the celebration, many of which were the rocket-style explosives that are strictly prohibited, they had no choice but to act.
Officers confiscated the cache without issuing a citation, a move that was certainly appropriate. The $1,800 or so worth of fireworks were donated to Maggie Valley, which used some of the larger ones in their July 4 fireworks event and donated the smaller ones to charity. The individual who collected funds from area businesses to help cover the cost said he intends to return the donations.
The incident has caused tension not only within the community where some town residents were disappointed the fireworks event didn’t happen but within the town’s governing board.
At the board meeting following the holiday, several aldermen delivered prepared remarks defending the action of the police department and recounting the reason the permit process is in place. The holiday was in the middle of a heat wave and rain had been scarce. The risk of a fire being sparked by the planned show, was a reasonable concern. The mayor’s role in the issue raised legitimate questions about the town’s potential liability if the event had happened as planned, though that was unspoken during the tense moments when the issue was discussed.
Hopefully next year Canton can have a July 4 celebration, led by both the mayor and the town’s governing board, that included fireworks — ones that will be discharged for all to enjoy after the proper permitting process is followed.