• warning: Parameter 2 to ed_classified_link_alter() expected to be a reference, value given in /home/soloneconomist/www/www/includes/common.inc on line 2968.
  • warning: Parameter 2 to ed_classified_link_alter() expected to be a reference, value given in /home/soloneconomist/www/www/includes/common.inc on line 2968.

Council leaves fireworks law as is Split members vote down ban

No support for limiting to July 4

SOLON– Solon residents can continue to shoot private fireworks July 1-4.
City council members took no action to ban the displays during a Sept. 16 meeting.
A motion to prohibit fireworks failed on a 2-3 vote, and a second motion to restrict usage to July 4 died for a lack of a second.
Council members Lynn Morris and Lauren Whitehead voted in support of a ban. Council members Steve Duncan, John Farlinger and Dan O’Neil dissented.
The city council was asked to reconsider the local ordinance at a Sept. 2 meeting by Morris, and City Attorney Kevin Olson presented two options for consideration Sept. 16– an outright ban or changing the allowed dates.
Mayor Steve Stange asked council members to consider the prohibition of fireworks before discussing other alternatives.
Duncan said he received a lot of feedback from residents on both sides of the issue.
A lot of people like them, he said, but a lot of others don’t because of the size of fireworks being lit off, debris landing on other properties and people not cleaning up their messes.
“We’ve all heard that, I think, over the last two years,” Duncan said. “Was this year an anomaly? I think a few of us think it was because people were pent up, we’ve been inside, and probably more people are doing it.”
Solon is the only community in Johnson County to allow fireworks and doesn’t have law enforcement to patrol the streets, he noted, acknowledging it was a difficult issue.
“I think we had a neighborhood that shot them off in the streets, that’s illegal,” he stated.
Eventually, he continued, someone’s going to lose a hand.
“Because we’ve got people lighting off larger fireworks than what they have expertise to really light off,” he said. “I think that was pretty common in neighborhoods I saw.”
Farlinger and O’Neil indicated the subject brought the biggest response in their time on the council.
O’Neil said they received input from more than 80 people, with the vast majority against a ban.
But even those in support of fireworks felt residents needed to be held accountable, he said.
Many felt the 2020 displays were larger and more numerous because of the cancellation of area community displays, he said.
He asked council members to postpone consideration for a year.
Farlinger argued the ordinance provided limits for the people who wanted to follow the rules, but there will still be residents shooting them off after midnight.
He suggested an outright ban could encourage more late-night displays by residents.
Asked by Duncan if displays were an enforcement problem in other communities, Johnson County Supervisor Pat Heiden said even Iowa City and Coralville have to deal with illegal displays.
The state law, passed in 2017, allows consumer fireworks to be purchased from licensed sellers and used between 9 a.m. and 10 p.m. from June 1 to July 8, as well as from Dec. 10 to Jan. 3, although the times are extended to 11 p.m. on July 4, the Saturday and Sunday preceding, and Dec. 31.
By Solon ordinance, fireworks displays are limited to private property (no city streets or public spaces) between 9 a.m. and 10 p.m. July 1-3, and between 9 a.m. and 11 p.m. July 4.
While many communities opted out, the legalization of fireworks was a state mandate counties and cities have to adhere to, she said.
On a county level, she said, discussions continue on how to do a better job of holding people accountable.
“It’s huge problem across the county,” she stated.
Whitehead said she spoke to Sheriff Lonny Pulkrabek at length.
“He said he thought a ban is a good idea and impossible to enforce,” she said.
Having considered the varying opinions, Whitehead said, “I am really concerned about the fact there’s really no safe way to set off explosives in city limits without putting other people at risk.”
While this year may have been atypical, it was still unsafe and will be unsafe nest year, she added.
“I think it’s reasonable for us to establish an expectation of what we think is in the best public interest, which I think should be based on safety,” she commented.
Resident Tom Rohner, who moved to Solon from Ely last year, asked the council to continue to allow fireworks at least once a year.
As an Ely firefighter, he said, he never responded to a single call caused by fireworks.
“We had a fire the first year,” Stange pointed out.
Rohner agreed there were always risks, but fireworks, even when illegal, are a tradition for the holiday. He supported enforcement of the existing law.
“Enforcement is always going to be what we bump up against as the limitations of this,” Whitehead observed.
Iowa used to allow fireworks, resident Kevin Samek noted, but they were outlawed after a sparkler was dropped on a stack of fireworks causing a blaze nearly leveling the town of Spencer in 1931.
Four fires were reported in Cedar Rapids this year, he said, either in trashcans or dumpsters.
“You’re going to have people shooting off fireworks in this town whether they’re legal or illegal,” Samek suggested. “I’ve lived here for 40-some years, and there isn’t a Fourth of July where I haven’t seen fireworks going up in the air or firecrackers and that stuff being blown up.”
Why put the ordinance on the books if it can’t be enforced, he asked.
Samek said he accumulates more litter at his residence from Beef Days than from July 4.
Denny Hansen, longtime resident and firefighter, was the last of the public to speak.
“I don’t want to take the pleasures away from the people,” he said. “I like to watch a fireworks display as much as anyone.”
Hansen said the city should have a law whether it can enforce it or not.
“Having an ordinance holds it down to reasonable, so that people are reasonable about it,” he said.
While in favor of a ban, Hansen suggested a single day, July 4, be designated; something both Rohner and Samek agreed made sense.
He again warned injury or fire were inevitable.
“It’s going to happen sometime.”
With no further comment, Stange asked for a motion to approve an ordinance prohibiting private fireworks displays.
Morris made the motion with Whitehead providing the second, but the motion failed 2-3.
When Stange asked if there was interest in tightening the timeframe, Duncan moved to limit fireworks to July 4, from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m.
O’Neil interjected to question whether the single date could be set annually by the council to keep the displays on a Saturday.
With a motion on the table, Stange called for a second and none came.
“The ordinance stands as it is,” he declared.