You’ll have fewer days to buy and light off fireworks next year, Omaha.
The City Council on Tuesday voted 7-0 to shorten the city’s July Fourth and New Year’s fireworks seasons.
Under the ordinance, Omahans will have three days to light off fireworks next Fourth of July. That’s down from this year’s 10-day season.
Omahans will have seven days to buy fireworks, from June 28 through July 4. That’s shorter than this year’s selling season, which began June 25. Shooting off fireworks will be legal in the city from July 2 through July 4.
And over the New Year’s holiday, people will have from 5 p.m. on New Year’s Eve until 1 a.m. on New Year’s Day to shoot off fireworks. (People still won’t be able to buy fireworks in Omaha over New Year’s.)
Mayor Jean Stothert started the discussion about shortening the fireworks season in an effort to address concerns from veterans and pet owners. The city receives hundreds of fireworks complaints each year.
Stothert, in a statement, called the council’s action “necessary and appropriate.”
“I appreciate the council’s willingness to support the changes I proposed and take additional steps to limit fireworks sales and use while maintaining our Independence Day celebrations,” she said.
Opponents included Bellino Fireworks, which is based in Papillion, and nonprofits that sell fireworks in Omaha as fundraisers. They worried that a shorter season would cut revenue they need to support their organizations.
The council’s law committee made changes, including those to the New Year’s holiday. The council’s changes also included upping the fines for violating the city’s fireworks ordinance and dropping the number of permits to sell fireworks in the city from 50 to 40.
Councilman Brinker Harding offered an amendment during the meeting to keep the number of permits at 50, but it failed. Only he and Councilwoman Aimee Melton voted to support it.
At a briefing before Tuesday’s council meeting, Melton said that despite the shorter season, she thinks enforcement will still be a problem. She noted that people will have seven days to buy fireworks around the Fourth of July, but only three days to use them.
“I do think what we’re going to create is four days of an enforcement nightmare for the Omaha Police Department and potentially 911,” she said.
Councilman Vinny Palermo said enforcement will continue to be a problem as long as Omahans can buy fireworks 5 minutes away in the suburbs. People can buy and use fireworks in Ralston, La Vista, Papillion and Bellevue for 10 days through July 4.
Councilman Rich Pahls, who leads the council’s law committee and shepherded the changes through, said he hopes the surrounding communities can eventually get on the same page as Omaha and standardize the fireworks season.
Melton said she’s talked to them and “they’re not even close” to supporting that.
“The reason why is because of the relationships they have with the (fireworks) vendors,” Pahls said. “It’s a political thing.”