State limits fireworks fees, but city still educates businesses and consumers

In 2003, the Minnesota Legislature capped city license fees for businesses selling fireworks, dropping the cost from $500-$600 to $100.

The high fees were to pay for enforcement and an educational program that would notify sellers of the laws about fireworks sales and the hazards of storing explosives.

Despite the fee cut, Minneapolis Fire Department officials say they've made do and they think the public is just as safe.

The legislature legalized fireworks sales in Minnesota in 2002. Minneapolis created its $500-$600 fee in 2003.

Citywide, 28 businesses held fireworks licenses last year, said Tess Neumann, a Fire Department staffer. So far, only half have reapplied -- though Neumann said it was early in the season -- and only two are licensed in Southwest: the Snyder's at 4626 Nicollet Ave. S. and the Cub Foods at 5937 Nicollet Ave. S.

City Fire Marshal Dave Dewall, who is in charge of licensing and inspecting these businesses, said the high city fees helped to pay for staff time to give businesses an educational PowerPoint presentation.

With lower fees, he said his department has modified the educational program. Instead of an in-person PowerPoint presentation, the city mails the applicant the information in packet form. Applicants must sign a form attesting that they've read it. The business still gets an inspection visit before receiving a permit.

Dewall said he's confident the Department is doing enough.

Dewall said no business has had problems and no licenses have been revoked. He said his Department receives lots of questions but no complaints about sales to minors or other problems.

He said the educational review emphasizes appropriate storage. Dewall said it's important that fireworks are not stored too high or close to a heat source.

Dewall said it's crucial that consumers also learn about fireworks dangers. He said oftentimes people don't take the dangers seriously. "[People] shouldn't take it for granted that they're just firecrackers," he said.

Dewall said fireworks producers print warning labels on their merchandise for a reason, and he urges people to read them and pay attention, especially with sparklers.

For consumers, the state has set up links for safety information at www.fire.state.mn.us/Fireworks/ConsumerFireworks.html.