|Fireworks to welcome in the New Year|
|December 30, 2010 Jerry Purvis Jerry Purvis/Gering Citizen|
Representing three generations of the Wilcox family, from left, Blake Wilcox, Gerald Wilcox and Eric Wilcox, set up fireworks on a table at Discount Fireworks at 2021 E. Overland in Scottsbluff.
This New Year’s Eve, fireworks may be legally discharged by residents in both Gering and Scottsbluff.
The activity became legal early in 2010 when the Nebraska Legislature passed a bill allowing local municipalities to pass ordinances allowing for fireworks between Dec. 28 and Jan. 1.
Under the ordinance passed by Gering, retail fireworks may be sold from Dec. 29 – 31. However, they may only be discharged from 4:30 p.m. on Dec. 31 until 12:30 a.m. on Jan 1.
The evolution of Gering’s ordinance was somewhat complicated. On recommendation of the city’s Public Safety Committee, the full council voted to prohibit New Year’s fireworks during their Oct. 25 meeting.
Council member Julie Morrison, who serves on the Public Safety Committee, said fireworks would only add to the problems the police department faced during New Year’s celebrations. The committee wanted to wait to see what happened with a similar ordinance expected to pass in Scottsbluff.
Then on Nov. 15, Scottsbluff did pass a fireworks ordinance. That left some Gering council members wondering whether the disparity would cause enforcement problems.
Two local fireworks vendors asked council to reconsider, in light of the Scottsbluff ordinance. They said it would give teens and others an alternative to the usual New Year’s Eve celebrations.
Several council members had also polled their constituents about the issue and found support for allowing fireworks. Consequently, the council rescinded their original prohibition at the Nov. 25 meeting and sent the matter back to the Public Safety Committee to draft a new ordinance.
However, the Public Safety Committee still didn’t come to an agreement and sent the issue back to the council without recommendation.
Fireworks were discussed again by the full council on Dec. 6. Although there was some opposition, the measure allowing for the activity passed. Fireworks vendors also agreed to hand out flyers at their stores explaining the terms of the city ordinance and reminding people they are responsible for cleaning up their own fireworks trash.
The ordinance did contain a one year sunset clause. The issue will be revisited again next year to see if it will be extended, adjusted or repealed.
“At this point we’re not anticipating any problems,” said Capt. Jason Rogers of the Gering Police Department. “This year will be that feeling-out period because this is an unknown. We can’t predict if there will be any problems. Allowing for fireworks is an extra bonus for people who want to celebrate New Year’s.”