The bill signed into law by Governor Terry Branstad allows city councils and county boards of supervisors to ban or restrict use of fireworks, but not the sale of the fireworks. The City of Newton is asking residents to take a survey giving their opinion on the use issue.
Newton Fire Chief Jarrod Wellik told the city council he’s is already hearing from potential fireworks vendors. “We have taken numerous calls from sellers of fireworks that already want to start setting up to sell… and you maybe even saw some of the advertising that was in the newspaper that they are already looking to work these booths. So, it’s coming and it’s coming quickly. The Newton city staff is attempting to quickly draft ordinances dealing with firework sales and use.Wellik drew some chuckles as he told city council members his preference on the issue.
“It’s not secret that as a public safety official I’m gonna stand up here and I’m gonna tell you that not allow the use of fireworks is the path that I am going to extend to you,” Wellik says. The sale and use of Fireworks within Newton’s City Limits will be talked about at next Monday’s City Council Meeting. The city of Grinnell’s current city ordinance does not allow the sale or shooting off of fireworks. Grinnell Police Chief Dennis Reilly says the city council may yet amend city code to comply with the new state law, but until then, you face a penalty if caught.
“Just as last year and the year before and the year before that, you are subject to a citation,” Reilly says. The city does allow the use of fireworks for events if there is a professional operator with insurance. The Urbandale City Council passed the first reading of an ordinance Tuesday that would ban the use of fireworks in the city. City manager A.J. Johnson says the city has had a “no tolerance” policy for fireworks for the past several years, and the council wants to continue that.
“The city council was unanimous in their vote on Tuesday and also in their previous support that they wanted to limit or even eliminate the private use of …first-class fireworks by residents,” Johnson says. He says they took the survey based on comments they’d received.
“There was no survey document or anything circulated within the public,” Johnson says. “Certainly the council has received a number of emails and communications from residents. We received, I want to say 15 directly on this issue prior to the council meeting.” He says those emails ran five-to-one in favor of banning fireworks. Two people spoke at the council meeting, one for and one against. Johnson says they have discussed the issue the last several years as the bills came forward in the Iowa Legislature to legalize fireworks. He says there have also been discussions among cities about what to do, and he says there’s no consensus on it.
“So, I think you’re going to find not only in the metro — but throughout the state — a variety of different applications about how individual communities are going to be allowing their residents to use or not use fireworks,” according to Johnson. Urbandale has a large annual fireworks display for the Fourth of July. Johnson says the ordinance would still allow people to hire professional companies to use fireworks for events such as weddings.
“We wanted to make sure that we weren’t hypocritical, that we were going to ban the use and then allow for the setting off of fireworks. We wanted to make sure at certain community and public events that they could still take place under certain guidelines as outlined by the city,” Johnson says. The Urbandale City Council will hear the second reading of the ordinance at their meeting May 23rd.
“There has been some discussion about whether or not the council will suspend their rules and adopt the ordinance on the second reading, waving the third reading,” Johnson says. “Because the effective date of sales begins June 1st for permanent structures and I believe June 10th for temporary structures.”
The city of Ames sent out a news release on the subject that says: “Before Ames residents start stockpiling bottle rockets and planning a fireworks extravaganza, they should be aware of local restrictions. Recent State of Iowa legislation legalizing fireworks allows municipalities to opt out by creating local ordinances within city limits. The City of Ames enacted an ordinance in 1987 banning the use of fireworks within city limits, which means local restrictions are already in place.”
The law allows the sale of fireworks from June 1st through July 8th, and from December 10th through January 3rd.
(Randy Van of KCOB, Newton contributed to this story)