City tables fireworks discussion

Meghan Flynn

Garden City Police Chief Mike Utz spoke at the Garden City Commission’s regular meeting Monday on the times, dates and types of fireworks discharged within the city.

The commission chose to table the item until its Dec. 15 meeting in order to get input from the Finney County Commission.

On Oct. 20, at a joint meeting between Garden City, Finney County and the city of Holcomb, the commissioners discussed the topic with the GCPD, Finney County Sheriff’s Office and Holcomb Police Department but took no action.

Utz said staff did not have a recommendation in respect to the dates and times of discharge but believe consistency is key for public safety in regards to the dates of sale and types of fireworks being discharged.

“Consistency with the dates of sale and types of fireworks being discharged has improved public safety by reducing the instances of date violations, time of day violations and losses due to fire in the city and county,” he said. “It has increased the ability of both agencies to proactively get around to neighborhoods in the early evenings and educate on safety and local ordinances, then reduce to a more manageable number the calls for enforcement after hours.”

Garden City Mayor Troy Unruh said that as the county has not yet taken up the issue, he wanted to speak with the county commission before the city took any action.

Commissioner Shannon Dick agreed as the county is the one that decides what fireworks are being sold and when they can be sold.

Commissioner Roy Cessna added that traditionally the city follows what the county commission decides.

“The county kind of controls the sales, because you can't sell fireworks inside the city limits, and then we kind of make the decision to follow the county,” he said.

Additionally, part of the reason why discharge of fireworks is allowed within the city limits is to protect farmland/agricultural land in the county, Dick said.

“Us restricting when those can be shot off when you can buy earlier, especially if we're talking a significant change, it might be going against the whole point of doing this in the first place,” he said. “It would be wise to see what they're thinking so that we don't kind of act against each other in trying to prevent the fires in the rural areas from fireworks.”

Also at the meeting Andy Flemer, interim CEO of St. Catherine Hospital, spoke during the public comment period, he thanked the commission for passing the mask ordinance.

“It's going to take weeks, as you all probably know, for any kind of mitigation measure to start showing results,” he said. “It takes the Three W's all combined together — no one of them is effective on a standalone basis.”

Flemer also updated the commission on the COVID-19 situation at the hospital.

Staff out related to COVID-19, either due to testing positive themselves or coming into contact with someone who has tested positive, continues to average at about 30 associates, Flemer said. It’s putting a strain on the remaining staff.

Cases have increased, he said. As of Monday morning, there were 24 positive patients at the hospital, the highest it has seen to date.

“That’s the entire second floor,” he said. “It’s all COVID, that’s a lot.”

Flemer said a surge in positive cases is expected due to Thanksgiving and statisticians at Centura Health project that numbers will continue to climb through early January.

“Statistics typically don't lie,” he said. “We keep encouraging everyone to practice the three W's all in concert — wear a face covering, wash your hands and watch your distance.”

In other business:

• Commissioner Manny Ortiz was recommended to serve on the steering committee for the Garden City Comprehensive Plan and Downtown Master Plan.

• Charlie Robinson, Carmen De La Torre and Michael Richmeier were appointed to the Airport Advisory Board for three-year terms each.

• Beverly Glass and Nathaniel Haeck were appointed to the Holcomb-Garden City-Finney County Area Planning Commission. Glass will serve a two-year term and Haeck will serve a three-year term.