FD Council won’t ban fireworks

Fireworks sales could be restricted to industrial areas

Fireworks won’t be banned in Fort Dodge, but the temporary tents where some of them are sold in the summer may be confined to industrial areas of the city.

The City Council spent an hour talking about fireworks after pyrotechnics again generated hundreds of calls to the police this summer and prompted some residents to come to the council last month demanding action.

While there were some verbal fireworks when the subject came up during the July 9 council meeting, the tone of Monday’s session was polite. Because it was a workshop session, the council took no action.

But it became apparent that there is not enough support on the council to ban fireworks.

“None of us here really see that a complete ban is going to solve the problem,” Councilman Jeff Halter said. “I agree with that.”

Councilman Neven Conrad said he would be “hesitant” to ban fireworks.

“If we were to ban them, we would still have the complaints,” he said.

Councilman Terry Moehnke said there is a “silent majority that appreciates fireworks and uses fireworks.”

Those who appreciate and use fireworks could someday have to go to different locations to buy them.

City Manager David Fierke said the council has the option of restricting the fireworks tents to areas that are zoned for light industrial or heavy industrial use.

Halter and Councilwoman Lydia Schuur said they were in favor of that.

Councilman Dave Flattery initially said he was opposed to restricting them to industrial areas, but when Fort Dodge resident Randy Kuhlman argued that the tents shouldn’t be on the Fifth Avenue South Corridor of Commerce, where considerable investments have been made, he said he could change his mind.

“You do raise good points,” Flattery said.

Councilman Kim Alstott suggested raising the fine for fireworks violations from $550 to $1,100 for violations after 10 p.m.

Any changes to the zoning rules or the fines would have to come back to the council for action during a regular business meeting. At the end of Monday’s workshop, it was unclear if or when that would happen.

In 2017, the state Legislature and Gov. Terry Branstad legalized the sale and use of fireworks in Iowa for the first time since the 1930s.

The state law gives cities the ability to limit the use of fireworks, but apart from zoning regulations, cities don’t have the authority to regulate their sale.

In the summer of 2017, the Fort Dodge Police Department received 525 complaints about fireworks.

In response, the council imposed new limits on when fireworks can be used.

They can now be used from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. July 1-3. They can be used from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. July 4.

They can also be used between 5 p.m. Dec. 31 and 12:30 a.m. Jan. 1.

The council also increased the fine for fireworks violations from $250 to $500.

Despite the new restrictions and higher fines, the Police Department received even more complaints in the summer of 2018.

Fierke said there were 604 complaints between June 1 and July 8.

He said officers issued 49 citations.

According to Fierke, 40 of those citations were for discharging fireworks outside the allowed time period, six were for using commercial-grade fireworks and two were for discharging fireworks in the street.

Conrad said he believes giving cities the power to regulate the sale of fireworks is a potential solution to the problem of fireworks violations. He said he submitted proposed legislation that would give cities that powers to state Sen. Tim Kraayenbrink, R-Fort Dodge.

During Monday’s workshop, a handful of people addressed the council. Their suggestions included:

• Requiring those who buy fireworks to sign their names;

• Holding a referendum vote to determine if Fort Dodge residents believe fireworks should be allowed;

• Requiring fireworks vendors to post signs that include the fine for violations in bold print.