The discharge of fireworks within Gering city limits will be allowed between Dec. 31 and Jan. after the city council narrowly approved an ordinance by a 4-3 vote Tuesday night.
Under the ordinance, retail fireworks may be sold from Dec. 29 – 31. Fireworks may only be discharged from 4: 30 p.m. on Dec. 31 until 12:30 a.m. on Jan. 1.
The city council had originally voted to prohibit the sale and discharge of fireworks on New Year’s Eve but rescinded that vote after Scottsbluff approved a similar measure.
Council member Julie Morrison, who serves on the Public Safety Committee, said they discussed an ordinance for the second time but were unable to come to an agreement. Consequently, the committee forwarded the potential ordinance to the full council without recommendation for discussion.
Council president Larry Gibbs, who was serving as acting mayor in the absence of Susan Wiedeman, read several e-mails he received in favor of allowing fireworks on New Year’s Eve.
One said that no matter how the council votes, some residents will discharge fireworks anyway. The e-mail added that the police would already be on alert and enforcing a fireworks ban would just be an added burden.
“I wish I could vote for this,” said Ward IV council member Jill McFarland. Most of the constituents who contacted me said they don’t want this, so I have an obligation to do what they want.”
Council member Manuel Escamilla, who also served in Ward IV, said he had a different response. “Most people who contacted me said they want to have fireworks on New Year’s Eve,” he said. “If Scottsbluff allows fireworks and we don’t, it could become an enforcement issue.”
Escamilla said he talked with a friend in Torrington, Wyo., where fireworks are sold year round. They had no problems with New Year’s Eve fireworks. People set off a few then run back into the house because it’s so cold.
Another council concern was the amount of debris generated by exploded fireworks. But two local fireworks vendors said they plan to hand out a flyer with every sale that explains the ordinance and that it will be enforced. The flyer would also remind users they are responsible for cleaning up their own trash.
The ordinance that passed contains a one-year sunset clause, so council members can revisit the issue next year and determine whether it needs to be extended, adjusted or repealed. Voting in favor were Don Christensen, Larry Gibbs, Rebecca Shields and Manuel Escamilla. Voting against were Jill McFarland, Dan Smith and Julie Morrison. Joyce Hillman-Kortum was absent from the meeting.