McLouth council addresses issues with fireworks
by Dennis Sharkey
The McLouth City Council is tweaking the city’s fireworks ordinance that will result in a certain fireworks banishment.
The council will ban what is described as an incendiary firework. Councilman Harlan Woodring described a firework that has an open burning flame that lasts for more than a minute. Councilman George Bowen described one of the fireworks as a four-foot lantern hovering in the sky.
The discussion did not start because of the firework but from complaints of discharging of fireworks outside the time parameters of the ordinance.
The current form of the ordinance allows for discharge between the hours of 9 a.m. and 10 p.m. June 30 through July 3 and on July 5. The hours extend to midnight on July 4. The ordinance was revised in 2007. City Administrator and Fire Chief Carl Chalfant said there was a lot of public comment then.
State statutes allow for the sale and discharge of fireworks between June 27 and July 5.
Police Chief Marcus Koch said he has no issues with the ordinance except for the sale date. The city’s ordinance allows for sale to commence on June 29 but discharge is not allowed until June 30. He said some residents are confused when confronted about discharging on the 29th.
“We address these things with people and they say, ‘Well we just bought them,’” he said. “It makes it problematic.”
Councilwoman Barbara Hasemeier wanted to be a little bit more restrictive than the current ordinance. She suggested discharge and sale should occur only July 1 through July 4. State statutes can be made more restrictive on the city level but cannot be made less restrictive.
Chalfant and Woodring argued against shortening the period because it would hurt local vendors. He said a local resident and a not-for-profit sell fireworks in the city. Other places such as Oskaloosa and Tonganoxie also offer fireworks for sale.
“If you shorten up their period they’re not going to sell hardly any fireworks,” Chalfant said.
Woodring said the kids in town would find a way to get the fireworks and will discharge them anyway.
“Even if we restrict them here in town they’re still going to be for sale,” Woodring said. “Are you going to have (Koch) arrest every 12-year-old?”
City Prosecutor Trevin Ray, who was filling in for Counselor Carol Bonebrake, also brought up the issue of a lack of penalty in the city’s ordinance. As written the ordinance provides no remedy if a ticket is issued. There are some cases that will come through the city’s municipal court system next month. Ray said all he can do is send them on their way.
“They’re coming in August and all I can do is shake a fist at them and give them the business,” Ray said.
The council instructed Ray to draft an ordinance that will allow the discharge of fireworks on June 29 when they become available for purchase.
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