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Council approves Suns' fireworks request after colorful blasts

November 30, 2005|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

HAGERSTOWN

andrews@herald-mail.com

The booms and bursts at City Hall Tuesday evening were the opinions of Hagerstown City Council members, crashing against each other over a Hagerstown Suns fireworks proposal.

The Suns had asked the city to allow 14 fireworks nights for the 2006 season, the same as this year and one more than last year.

Council members Lewis C. Metzner and Kristin B. Aleshire favored the request.

As a bloc, though, council members Alesia D. Parson-McBean, Penny M. Nigh and Kelly S. Cromer defeated Metzner's motion. Cromer then recommended cutting the Suns' request to 11 fireworks nights.

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Eventually, a 4-1 majority of the council came back around to Landes' request and approved the 14 nights, but not before:

- Splitting up a three-night stretch of fireworks around July 4 and allowing no more than one set of back-to-back fireworks games for the season

- Imposing an 11 p.m. deadline for all fireworks shows to end

- Lustily debating and weighing neighbors' rights and economic development.

Nigh cast the only no vote against the final motion.

Taking the business point of view, Mayor Richard F. Trump called it "an embarrassment" what opponents on the City Council put Suns General Manager Kurt Landes through.

Metzner accused his colleagues of asking to hear from the public, then ignoring their views.

At a comment period last week, 11 people urged the city to support the fireworks, which they said are fun and a good tourism attraction.

The only other person to speak then, John McCune, who lives near Municipal Stadium, said he and his neighbors aren't against fireworks shows, but don't want them to run so late into the night.

On Tuesday, Cromer said she has heard from others who did not speak out last week. They have complained about noise, the late hour of shows and debris, she said.

Landes has said the team has had one fireworks show in four years start after 11 p.m. and that was because of an expected rain delay and extra innings.

Council members urged Landes to stop late-running games to shoot off fireworks, but Landes said he didn't think baseball's rules would allow that. He said the city's rules and baseball's rules put him "between a rock and a hard place" as he tries to obey both.

Landes also said he couldn't, as one council member suggested, unpack fireworks from the shells if the night was getting late. A Hagerstown Fire Department memo agreed that it was not a safe thing to do.

Metzner's proposal - to allow 14 fireworks shows, with an 11 p.m. curfew - was defeated 3-2, with Parson-McBean, Nigh and Cromer voting no.

Cromer's counterproposal was to cut the number of shows to 11, also with an 11 p.m. curfew.

Landes shook his head when he heard that. He said the council's limit would send "a very negative message" to Mandalay Sports Entertainment, which owns the team.

"I remind you that we are talking about a business ... and this is their most profitable opportunity," Trump said.

Landes has said that fireworks shows make up 20 percent of the team's home schedule, but account for about 30 percent of the season attendance.

Under the agreement that the council approved, Landes must cancel fireworks from the middle game in a three-game July 4 fireworks stretch and move it to a different Sunday.

However, he was allowed two straight games of fireworks in June, when he has business commitments already in place.

Metzner and Cromer later complimented the council for bending enough to create a compromise.

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