|Council takes no action on fireworks ban, urges caution|
|July 03, 2012 Jerry Purvis|
After an hour of discussion in an emergency meeting, members of the Gering City Council rejected a proposed fireworks ban due to dangerous fire conditions.
The gallery was packed with people taking time off during lunch on Friday to make their concerns known to council members.
Gering Mayor Ed Mayo said he had received more comments encouraging a fireworks ban than ones against a ban. He also received an email from High Plains Weed Management encouraging a county-wide ban on fireworks because of the high temperatures and dry conditions.
Council member Dan Smith said he went to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration website for more information. Although temperatures are expected to be near 100 through July 4, he saw no wind related red flag warnings in the Panhandle.
“We’ve had a lot of dry years in the last 10,” Smith said. “If we ban fireworks in the city, we’d just be pushing all the fireworks out into the county, which is an even more dangerous situation.”
Council member Don Christensen said it was unfortunate a proposed ban wasn’t discussed earlier. Also, the Colorado fires that concern people weren’t fireworks related at all. “This isn’t an easy thing for us to do,” he said.
The City of Chadron considered a similar fireworks ban a few weeks ago, but it was rejected. Chadron’s fear was that city-banned fireworks would only go out into the county.
Councilman Manuel Escamilla agreed it would be better to have fireworks within the city, where potential fires could be more easily dealt with.
“I agree with Don, we should have addressed this a long time ago,” Escamilla said. “This could put the fireworks vendors in a bind as they’ve already purchased their inventory. I really don’t know if we want to put them in that position.”
Gering Police Chief Mel Griggs said the number of fireworks related complaints is down from last year. Most of the complaints are already addressed in the existing ordinance, such as obstructing or blocking streets or sidewalks. The department is also recommending people have a nearby water source while discharging fireworks.
Griggs also said a fireworks ban would be a big hit to his department’s budget for providing the necessary officers to enforce the ban.
Gering resident Mark Bohl said that while nature-caused fires can’t be controlled, fireworks can. He also spoke against any ban that would only push fireworks out into the rural areas where fires are harder to control. “Why impose a ban unless it’s on the entire county?” he asked. “Next spring you can reconsider whether it’s a good idea.”
Resident Bob Sharp said a complete ban isn’t needed when all it takes is common sense about discharging fireworks in a safe manner. “Most people will abide by the ordinances, but you’ll always have a few who don’t.”
Terrytown Mayor Kent Greenwalt also expressed concern about the dry conditions the area has been experiencing. He also said the rumors were false that his town had already decided on a fireworks ban.
“We haven’t decided anything,” Greenwalt said. “At this point, I think the best thing to do is to keep the ordinance the way it is.”
Gering fireworks vendor Greg Trautman said a fireworks ban would go deeper than just inventory. It would affect their advertising, their contracts and taxes they pay on their buildings.
“I haven’t been hearing fireworks going off like I have in past years,” Trautman said. “I don’t know if people are getting more cautions or courteous, but I think the general public is doing a much better job of policing themselves.”
Eric Wilcox, another fireworks vendor, said just having the public meeting helps get the word out to the public to handle fireworks safely.