After passing its first reading, the ordinance that would have added Juneteenth celebrations to the city’s fireworks chapter in the municipal code failed on a required second vote, after the four members of the Tullahoma Board of Mayor and Aldermen tied Monday night.
Ordinance No. 1547, which would have amended Chapter 6 of Title 7 of the Tullahoma Municipal Code, which regulates the sale and use of fireworks within the city limits, passed its first of two required readings by a vote of 5-2, with only Mayor Ray Knowis and Mayor Pro Tem Jimmy Blanks opposed to the measure. The ordinance would have extended the time when fireworks could be sold and added a section allowing for the shooting of fireworks on June 19, the federally recognized holiday of Juneteenth, also known as Black Independence Day. Current city code only allows for fireworks to be sold and used during certain days and hours for the July 4 and New Year’s Eve holidays. Board members sought to add permissible hours for Juneteenth celebrations in recognition of the newly-added federal holiday.
The specific statute states fireworks permits are valid between June 20 and July 5 as well as Dec. 20 through the first of January. Fireworks sales are currently permissible during this time. Fireworks usage is permissible from July 1—4 and on New Year’s Eve until 1 a.m. New Year’s Day.
The amended code would have set aside a 12-hour period on June 19 for Juneteenth fireworks in the city limits, as well as allow for permits and sales to begin June 17—two days before Juneteenth recognitions and three days before the current code allows.
During the December meeting, several aldermen, including Daniel Berry, Sernobia McGee, Rupa Blackwell and Robin Dunn, recognized the importance of allowing citizens to celebrate the holiday. The change also received push back from Blanks, who said his resistance to the amendment was not to take away from the significance of Juneteenth. Rather, he said in December, his view was fireworks were a nuisance for many citizens, and he would rather eliminate all fireworks usage. He went as far as to avow that he would never vote to increase the allowable time for fireworks so long as he was an elected official.
Blanks held true to that sentiment on both votes. He and Knowis were the two nay votes on both readings, the second of which killed the ordinance.
Monday’s meeting saw three board members—Jenna Amacher, Blackwell and Dunn—absent, leaving a barely-there quorum of four board members to deliberate on the issue.
Berry attempted to postpone the second reading until the next meeting in two weeks, sensing a tie vote on the issue, but his motion to postpone died for lack of a second.
The issue then went to a vote with no further discussion, yielding a tie. Berry and McGee were the only yea votes on the second reading.
According to City Attorney Steve Worsham, if the vote ended in a tie with no hope of resolution, the motion would fail.
“If it ties, it dies,” he said in response to a question from Berry on the procedure.
Whether or not the issue may be brought up again remains unclear from city officials. City Administrator Jennifer Moody told The News for right now, the city code will remain unchanged, with fireworks only allowed for sale and use for the July 4 and New Year’s holidays.
Neither Worsham nor Moody could say for certain Monday night if another board member could bring up the issue again. Additional questions about the timing to readdress the issue remained unclear Monday night. Further research would be required, city officials said.
Worsham said he would be in contact with Patricia Junkin, a certified Parliamentarian who has been assisting the board on Robert’s Rules of Order procedures since December.