County retains power to ban fireworks

Legislative push to change process fails

County retains power to ban fireworks

EL PASO, Texas - Fireworks have been rare in El Paso County. In 2013, it could be much of the same.

Earlier this year, there was concern from El Paso County Judge Veronica Escobar that state legislative moves could limit her county powers to ban fireworks. At the time, she said that she would likely "ask the court again."

On Monday, commissioners were briefed on current legislative moves at the Capitol. Among the highlights, House bills 3226, 3429 and 3557 all died on Friday. Those are the bills that would have removed the county's power to ban fireworks.

"I want to make it very clear that if the conditions exist and if I am able to, I will be asking the court to ban the fireworks for a third year in a row," said Escobar.

In 2011, the first year Escobar banned fireworks, there was debate. However, looking back, people in the industry say they understood the ban. Fernando Viramontes, the regional manager for TNT Fireworks, said he didn't feel the same way about the ban implemented in 2012.

"At this point I'm remaining optimistic," said Viramontes.

According to Viramontes, the fireworks industry is moving forward with hopes the ban won't take effect this year. He said they have no choice.

"There is a lot more work involved in this industry than just 10 days of sales," said Viramontes.

Seasonal help must be hired, landowners must be paid to house fireworks booths and truck drivers have to be contracted to move the booths. Fireworks sales typically take place between June 24 through the Fourth of July, but with so much work to be done, Viramontes said, they can't assume a ban will take place.

"If the bills are dead, I am officially going to get the wheels in motion," said Escobar.

Escobar hasn't wasted time making it clear that if conditions don't improve, she won't hesitate to make a motion to ban fireworks. Last year, industry leaders questioned why a move came so late. She countered that talks had continued for weeks. This year, she's made it clear publicly what is in the works.

Discussions will continue over the next few weeks. The county will also have a sharp eye on the KDBI, an idex used to measure drought conditions, to determine if conditions improve.

In the meantime, Viramontes and others will continue to hope for a fireworks season.

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