The city of Creston’s fireworks ordinance will remain the same after Creston City Council members discussed the ordinance at last week’s regular meeting.
Dissent among city council members left those who volunteered to form a committee to look at possible ideas and changes for the ordinance – Ron Higgins and Gabe Carroll – unsure if there would be enough support to implement any changes.
Ultimately, the council elected to take no action, and a committee was not formed. That means the city’s fireworks ordinance will stay the same for the upcoming July 4 holiday.
The current ordinance – which bans the shooting of fireworks within city limits – first came under scrutiny last year when then Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad signed into law a bill allowing the sale and possession of fireworks in the state.
Despite the city’s current fireworks ordinance, it is still legal to sell, buy and possess fireworks within city limits. However, the shooting off of fireworks is prohibited within city limits. Fireworks are allowed to be shot off outside of city limits, as long as the person shooting the fireworks has the permission of the property owner.
Illegal shooting of fireworks carries a simple misdemeanor charge and a fine of up to $625. It is against state law to use, or set off, fireworks on any public property including lakes and state parks.
“After discussing it with Mike (Taylor) and Brandon (Vonk), I think, in my opinion anyway, people are shooting off fireworks anyway, and if we had set days where we would allow it, those people would maybe shoot them all off on the same days, rather than scattering it out over a seven-day, two-week period,” Carroll, Ward 3 councilman, said.
Other council members, however, disagreed that implementing a set time fireworks would be allowed to be shot off inside city limits would make any difference.
Fire Chief Todd Jackson was asked for his opinion on the matter and said he is against fireworks within city limits.
“I’ve communicated with several professional fire chiefs in this state and a lot of them tried it last year and an overwhelming majority of those said, ‘No more,’” Jackson said. “I think we’re too close to the end date now to set something up for July. I think you’re asking for trouble with a rushed ordinance.”
Jackson cited houses being too close together as one reason he is against an ordinance allowing fireworks to be shot off inside city limits, as well his department being short-staffed over the Fourth of July holiday, making it difficult to respond to any potential fires.
Police Chief Paul Ver Meer said he agreed with Jackson the ordinance should be left as it is, but did offer up a possible change.
“There’s certain things I’d like to see changed if they did [change the ordinance], like actually having a scheduled fine instead of a court appearance required,” Ver Meer said. “And make it so we could write property owners and not just people shooting fireworks themselves.”
Ver Meer said his department went call to call for fireworks last year, but it was difficult to write tickets without witnesses willing to give a statement or appear in court.
“I agree the fireworks are going to go on whether there’s an ordinance or not, but I do think it slows down when it is illegal,” Jackson said. “I think there’s some people that respect the rules and laws of the community and don’t do it. It’s just my opinion, but I don’t feel they belong in the city limits.”
Ward 4 Councilwoman Marsha Wilson said she doesn’t disagree with the ordinance as it stands now, but feels it should be discussed by a committee with ideas brought back to the council.
“It’s going to be happening anyway. Our alley has some of the prettiest fireworks in town about 9 o’clock,” Wilson said. “I believe we need to have a policy or ordinance regarding times and dates.”
At-large Councilman Steve Wintermute said he did not want to see an ordinance rushed through special meetings in time for the Fourth of July holiday.
“This should have been done in February, March,” Wintermute said. “That tells me nobody wants to [change the ordinance].”