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Education, fines key to curbing fireworks : Editorials : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
Education, fines key to curbing fireworks

As we reported last week, the Montgomery Village Board is considering increasing fines for village residents caught by police with setting off illegal fireworks in the village.

Since the start of summer village officials and police have been receiving a steady stream of complaints about illegal fireworks waking up small children and upsetting pets. According to Police Chief Daniel Meyers, the problem has been particularly bad in the subdivisions located on the village's far west side, west of Orchard Road.

Earlier this month, board members discussed the possibility of increasing the current minimum fine for a first-time fireworks conviction from $50 to $250. However, Steve Andersson, village attorney, has also advised the board it is not uncommon for judges to reduce fines for illegal fireworks and other ordinance violations for first time offenders. Chief Meyers has also recommended to the board they consider launching a community awareness campaign concerning the dangers of fireworks while also having the village's code enforcement officer work with police on a beefed-up enforcement effort.

We believe the board should increase the minimum fines while at the same time following Meyers' recommendations for a community education program. If the board does increase the fines in the coming months, we also believe the village should publicize the new fine schedule prior to next summer's "fireworks season" through press releases issued to the media and in the village's newsletter. The village might also want to include a separate notice concerning the new fine schedule in utility bills mailed out to all village households next spring.

Beyond these measures, we would hate to see village police officers taken off traffic and other, more vital patrol duties to catch someone setting off M80s in their driveway.

We believe the combination of increased fines and community education should help to limit the growing usage of illegal fireworks in the village. However, we would remind village officials that the problem they are facing is nothing new and really won't ever be fully eliminated. Fireworks have been a part of summers here and across the country since our nation's first Independence Day in 1776. Just last month in our "Yesteryear" column we printed this report from a July 1904 edition of the Kendall County Record: "The celebration here of the Fourth (of July in Oswego), though spread over a week or more, including Sunday, was nevertheless most demonstrative and noisy to a late hour Monday night, making the air thick with smoke and sulphurous in smell..."

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