Archive for Thursday, July 28, 2005

Public promised voice in decision on fireworks ban

July 28, 2005

The De Soto City Council has agreed to hear community opinions in September about a possible ordinance lifting the city's fireworks' ban.

The possibility of lifting the ban was first suggested by City Councilman Ted Morse at the council's July 7 meeting after the recent holiday weekend underscored the futility of trying to enforce the ordinance preventing their use in De Soto.

Last Thursday, City Administrator Greg Johnson gave the city council ordinances from the cities of Basehor, Bonner Springs and Wyandotte County Unified Government. The ordinances varied in their degree of regulation of both sellers and users. The cities take different approaches to such things as the number of days fireworks can be sold and used, with Basehor having the fewest regulations and Unified Government the most.

"Unified Government does allow fireworks, but the way I read all this is they did nothing to encourage it," Johnson said.

Among the restrictions in the three ordinances and those raised at the meeting that found support among council members were restricting the number of fireworks stands to perhaps four, a ban during dry conditions, forbidding their use within 300 feet of a retirement home, and banning the use of fireworks from all public property, including streets. Council members agreed the public should have a chance to address such issues as the numbers of days before July 4 fireworks could be sold and used, the hours they could be set


off in De Soto, and the basic decision of lifting the ban.

It was agreed a public hearing would be scheduled on the issue when the council's annual budget considerations were finished. Johnson said Monday he would look to schedule the hearing at one of the council's September meetings.

Councilwoman Linda Zindler remained the only council member to speak out against the ban. Researching fireworks on the Internet, she found that an international organization of fire chiefs opposed public use of fireworks and that nearly half of fireworks injuries involved children 15 years old or younger.

Councilwoman Mitra Templin, a supporter of lifting the ban, also researched the consequences of making fireworks legal for the Fourth of July holiday. Her insurance agent informed her that allowing fireworks for the Fourth wouldn't affect home insurance policies, she said.

One of the points in favor of fireworks mentioned is that their sale provides a fund-raising opportunity for non-profit organizations. City Attorney Patrick Reavey said the council couldn't limit fireworks stands to non-profit organizations. But sales in city limits could be limited in number and to De Soto residents or businesses.

Morse suggested a system that would have non-profit groups sponsored by local merchants. They already had sales tax numbers filed with the state, he said.

Superintendent Sharon Zoellner called the De Soto USD 232 Board of Education attention to the possible end of the local fireworks ban at Monday board meeting.

Zoellner and board members said the board should known concerns about the possible use of fireworks on school district property, especially with the annual July 4 fireworks show at the football stadium.

Board President Sandy Thierer said the district already had problems with the use of fireworks on school property and that Johnson County Sheriff's deputies wouldn't enforce the ban during the fireworks show. The use of fireworks started a small fire this year near Starside Elementary School that she reported, Thierer said.

It was agreed a letter would be written stating the board's concerns.

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