Town cool to idea of another fireworks storeWhen Jim Zeller and C.A. Hackworthy gauged the Hudson Town Board’s feeling about a second fireworks store, it brought back old demons — and not just black cats and snakes.
By: Bob Burrows, Hudson Star-Observer
When Jim Zeller and C.A. Hackworthy gauged the Hudson Town Board’s feeling about a second fireworks store, it brought back old demons — and not just black cats and snakes.
Board members say they welcome the tax base brought by the fireworks stores, but it’s not worth putting up with the eyesores that have existed in the past from things such as signs, and especially dumpsters. They’ve said repeatedly over the years that they regret a decision, made long ago, to allow siting of the town’s only fireworks store — and while the new proposal is a separate situation, they don’t really want another one.
The board then carried on a lengthy discussion about large fireworks stores in general under agenda item No. 13: CPT LLC request to review permitted uses for commercial/light industrial district.
“It’s been a terrible situation,” Supervisor Dave Ostby said of Cornellier, the sole existing shop. “It’s been a pain in our side.”
The town fire inspector seems to agree, and stuff that is illegal ends up getting shot off, Ostby said, adding he wishes fireworks stores to the east would thrive enough to put Cornellier out of business. The approval for the business, located east of the TA truck stop and not far from Interstate 94, was given so long ago that there was not a site plan approval involved. Therefore, there is nothing that can be revoked.
The two men who addressed the board noted that other communities in St. Croix County have higher ratios of the large fireworks stores to population, which were measured in thousands, of residents. Some of these towns and villages also get payments back based on their number of sales of the most potent fireworks.
Some in law enforcement have termed the way this is done as an illegal kickback. Shooting off the more extreme fireworks requires a permit, which can only be issued by a high-ranking municipality official. However, some villages and towns distribute copies of paper “permits” en masse to vendors, who give them out to buyers, even though they are legally worthless, say law enforcement officials. For each permit handed out, the municipality gets paid back a fee.
The town of Baldwin, for example, gets $2 back for each sale and accompanying distribution of permit, for a total of $30,000 in a typical fireworks season, town of Hudson officials said at the meeting.
The local officials wanted nothing of that practice, and Jeff Johnson, Hudson Town Board chairman, said that “thirty-thousand-dollars can go fast if you end up getting sued.”
There has been a district court case, with the docket named WI 197, that has declared the practice illegal. Also, from a consumer standpoint, the potential fine for putting faith in a worthless permit can be very expensive.