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Gering council discusses fireworks
August 15, 2013 Jerry Purvis   

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On a 6-2 vote, members of the Gering City Council agreed the full board should discuss any changes to the fireworks ordinance before they’re sent to committee.

Council member Dan Smith submitted the item that would “remove from committee any discussion of action items related to fireworks until it’s brought back for consideration by a majority vote of the full council.”

The action stems from a council meeting last month when two residents complained that neighbors didn’t clean up their fireworks debris during the Fourth of July celebration.

At that meeting, council member Don Christensen asked whether the Administrative Committee could discuss the matter and report back to the full council. Jill McFarland, fellow council member and chair of the Administrative Committee, said her committee could discuss the issue.

But during Monday’s meeting, Smith said no vote was taken on whether to send the fireworks ordinance to committee, which should have been first considered by the full council.

“We formed committees to get away from the four and five hour meetings we used to have,” McFarland said. “They provided a venue for more serious discussion of issues. But committees cannot make binding decisions. All they can do is report back to council.”

Smith said he wasn’t asking for changes in how committees work within the city council structure. “This fireworks ordinance has been brought through the Public Works Committee, the Admin Committee, and a special meeting to address fireworks during last year’s drought,” he said. “This council has spent a lot of time on fireworks and I think we know where the city and certain groups stand on the issue. I just don’t think city staff or council should be wasting their time on this issue.”

Christensen said that when he originally suggested the Admin Committee consider the fireworks ordinance, his intention was to ask the people who use fireworks to clean up the debris.

“We don’t need to change the fireworks ordinance,” he said. “We just need to encourage people to clean up after they’re done.”

McFarland said she was pretty much neutral on the fireworks ordinance. However, she said she needed to listen to her constituents and was one of the ‘no’ votes.

In other action, Smith also asked the council not to rescind the temporary ban on accepting asphalt shingles at the Gering landfill.

The ban was placed on shingles while the landfill was still using cell 5. But now that the new cell 6 has been completed, Director of Environmental Services Rick Hurt said the city could again accept asphalt shingles.

Smith said he didn’t see the wisdom in burying the shingles when there’s a local commercial business that will recycle them, while charging less per ton than the city does.

Smith said his major concern was that by accepting shingles, the city is effectively decreasing the 10-year life expectancy of the landfill. It could take that long to identify and permit a new landfill.

Hurt said they encourage people to recycle shingles, but some just won’t separate them out from other construction waste. So the city offers that service.

The council voted 5-3 to keep the shingle ban in place.
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