City waives ban on fireworks
Sale and discharge of aerial fireworks will be permitted.
BY SHAJIA AHMAD
This Fourth of July, residents will be able to revel with aerial fireworks.
Both the sale and discharge of aerial fireworks that shoot off more than six feet into the air essentially have been banned from Finney County for at least 23 years — until now.
City commissioners on Tuesday unanimously approved a waiver to lift a city wide ban on the discharge of fireworks, including aerial fireworks, from July 3 to 5. The decision allows residents to shoot off fireworks, including aerial ones, from 10:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. on those days.
The city's decision to allow aerial fireworks follows suit with a decision made earlier this month by the Finney County Commission. The county commission approved a resolution June 4 to allow fireworks vendors to sell aerial and non-aerial fireworks from June 27 to July 5.
The county's move marks the first time aerial fireworks have been allowed for sale and discharge since at least 1989, according to Fire Chief Allen Shelton.
The county made the decision following the request of at least one local fireworks vendor, who approached the commission in May and complained that local residents often travel to outlying communities to buy aerial fireworks, where they are allowed for sale, and bring them back to Finney County to shoot off.
That hurts not only fireworks vendors who miss out on local customers, but also the county, which missed out on sales taxes, the fireworks vendor said.
Shelton, who also serves as the county's fire coordinator, said Tuesday that the prior ban on aerial fireworks has been difficult to enforce.
"The (aerials) you've seen in prior years are ones that would have been purchased outside Finney County and brought back into Finney County to be discharged," Shelton said.
Shelton, who addressed city commissioners on Tuesday prior to their unanimous decision, said he is somewhat concerned about dry weather conditions this summer and the likelihood of fire outbreaks due to fireworks.
Shelton said Tuesday that fires in the county have been reduced over the years since fireworks were brought into city limits about seven to 10 years ago. Last summer, local elected officials instituted a county-wide ban on both the sale and discharge of all fireworks at the recommendation of fire officials, who warned that the risk of fire during the very hot and dry summer was too great.
At issue among some commissioners Tuesday was not the dangers or risks of fires or aerial fireworks, but the timing restriction from July 3 to 5.
"Some of us, fortunately not me, but some of us have to go into the work in the morning," Commissioner John Doll said. "If we're going to do this, 10:30 at night is too late. I can't favor this personally. Some of us old people want to sleep."
Mayor David Crase said he believed the time restrictions were appropriate, especially given the later sunsets in July, but felt the only problem was the "unenforceable" nature of the timing restrictions.
City Manager Matt Allen also reminded commissioners Tuesday that the city's public fireworks display, which will be held on July 4, doesn't start until shortly after dark.
The city's display, which was postponed to Veterans Day in November last year, is typically discharged from the parking lot at the Finney County Fairgrounds.
Except for certain statewide banned fireworks such as bottle rockets, Kansas allows individuals to sell fireworks from June 27 through July 5 each year.
More restrictive measures on fireworks sales, discharge and possession can be regulated at the county and city levels.
In other business during Tuesday's meeting:
* Commissioners reviewed several department budgets and city funds as part of their deliberations on the 2013 budget.
The following departments and funds are requesting the following amounts for their 2013 budget. City commission, $98,250; City Manager's office, $466,600; Service and Finance Department, $683,750; Legal Services fund, $93,750; Municipal Court, $883,000; Human Resources Department, $167,500; Information Technology Department, $328,250; City Prosecutor's office, $258,500; Police Department, $7.06 million; Planning and Community Development Department, $323,250; Engineering Department, $247,750; City Inspection's Department, $321,700; Parks Department, $762,500; Lee Richardson Zoo, $1.95 million; Fire Department, $2.84 million; City Cemetery, $538,000; and the Capital Improvement Fund, $1.8 million.
This year, the same departments and funds were allocated the following amounts: City commission, $98,000; City Manager's office, $442,650; Service and Finance Department, $678,250; Legal Services fund, $88,750; Municipal Court, $856,000; Human Resources Department, $159,250; Information Technology Department, $291,750; City's Prosecutor's office, $253,000; Police Department, $6.63 million; Planning and Community Development Department, $317,250; Engineering Department, $240,750; City Inspection's Department, $318,800; Parks Department, $837,000; Lee Richardson Zoo, $1.81 million; Fire Department, $2.68 million; City Cemetery, $486,000; Capital Improvement Fund, $2.08 million.
* Commissioners unanimously approved the appointment of Rebecca Clark and Evelyn Bowman to the Lee Richardson Zoo Advisory board.
The city commission meets again at 1 p.m. July 3 at the Finney County Administrative Center, 311 N. Ninth St. The city typically meets in the second-floor commission chambers of the City Administrative Center, 301 N. Eighth St., but is moving the meeting due to planned elevator repairs at the city building.