County Commission discusses dates changes for fireworks sales and discharge

Meghan Flynn
Garden City Telegram
Fireworks light up the sky as the wind stretches their shapes July 4 during Garden City's annual fireworks display originating in the Arkansas River bed area.

Changes to Finney County's fireworks sales and discharge regulations were discussed at the County Commission's regular meeting March 15.

While a final decision won't be made until the Commission's April 5 meeting, the Commission voted 3-2, with commissioners Dave Jones and Larry Jones dissenting, to amend the proposed regulations changes to allow sales to remain June 27 to July 5.

The draft regulations also propose shortening the dates of discharge of fireworks to July 1-5 from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.

The present regulations are to allow sales and discharge from June 27 to July 5.

Finney County Clerk Dori Munyan read five letters from county residents in favor of the proposed shortened dates of firework discharge at the meeting.

Karen Ham of Garden City said in her letter she is in favor of the shortened dates because five days is long enough as the sound causes undue stress on veterans, pets and children.

"It sounds like a war zone in the city and the smell of gunpowder permeates the air," she said. "Many people have animals that are frightened of the explosions including us. They will not go outside at all during the time they are being shot off."

Miranda Hagen-Smith, also of Garden City, agreed, stating that the week prior to July 4 is a "nightmare" as an owner of two dogs, mother of two small children and as a nurse who has to be up by 5 a.m.

"I can only imagine the impact it makes on other people, families, pets and veterans suffering from PTSD," she stated.

Two fireworks vendors also spoke at the meeting.

Vendor Chris Martinez said shortening the sales dates would mean a loss of revenue for him as well as loss of tax revenue for the county as people will go outside of the county to purchase their fireworks – he himself did that in his youth when fireworks sales weren't allowed in the county for a year.

"People will go outside of the community and purchase them and they will pop them until they get caught with a warning," he said. "I'm not trying to influence by any means by saying this is what's going to occur, what's going to happen, but that is something to also consider."

Fellow vendor Marilyn Porter said many of the vendors have already made fireworks purchases for the upcoming season. She hoped the county would wait until 2022 to make the changes effective. 

"Many of us have already made substantial investments in the fireworks industry for this coming season just because of the COVID-19 impact on China and exports and production," she said. "A lot of us have made inventory purchases based on the dates that we have always known to be in effect."

Commissioner William Clifford said limiting the sales from July 1-5 is akin to limiting the date for purchasing Christmas presents to the week before the holiday.

"I have difficulty with the sales restriction, I do think people need some time to buy these things," he said. "Although personally I object to these things, I'm an eye surgeon and I see the consequences of firework use, I have difficulty with the sale, but I certainly am in favor of the July 1-5 explosion events."

Commissioner Lon Pishny said he's concerned that if the sales dates and discharge dates are different that discharge will start early no matter the regulations.

"Although I very much respect commerce and all that, I respect they've ordered inventory, I'm concerned that as soon as the sales start then the discharges start," he said.

Commissioner Larry Jones also believes people will set off the fireworks as soon as they purchase them.

"If you purchase them you're going to set them off when you purchase them," he said. "People just won't (wait)."