Archive for Thursday, June 12, 2003

Fireworks restrictions ignite debate on Council

June 12, 2003

Suggestions to restrict the use of fireworks in Eudora weren't popular with Eudora City Council members who didn't want to see local residents penalized for what outsiders might or might not do this Fourth of July.

The Council ultimately shot down any new restrictions.

Concerns about fireworks usage arose because the city of Lawrence has outlawed fireworks this year, raising concerns that residents will swarm to other Douglas County areas -- including Eudora with their fireworks in tow. More people shooting off fireworks in Eudora could mean additional debris and added strain on firefighters and other emergency personnel. Moreover, City Administrator Mike Yanez said Eudora residents might feel encroached upon by visitors here only to shoot off fireworks.

"If they're using the lawns or the streets, they could certainly feel violated and ill at ease," Yanez said.

Instead, Yanez suggested the city prohibit anyone from shooting fireworks on public property, such as streets and parks. By restricting fireworks to private property, he said, the only out-of-towners shooting off fireworks would be Eudorans' guests.

But council member Tom Pyle said such restrictions would be overreacting.

"I think this is a very negative statement," he said. "(The kids) have something new one night a year. I'm not for just throwing cold water on the whole thing."

Moreover, Pyle said he thought it was safer for people to shoot off fireworks on public property, like the asphalt parking lot near Laws Field and the public pool, than it was for them to ignite fireworks on their lawns.

Although Yanez said the intent was to focus on non-residents rather than Eudorans, fellow Council member Scott Hopson said he thought the consequences would infringe on Eudorans.

"I don't think we ought to penalize the public for something that could happen," he said.

The Council's consensus was to monitor fireworks usage this Independence Day with the idea the city could revisit its policies next year if necessary.

Moreover, Eudora Police Chief Greg Dahlem and Eudora Fire Chief Spencer McCabe said their respective departments could regulate fireworks usage with existing state statutes. For instance, Dahlem said shooting off fireworks in an area that would impede traffic -- hence the street -- was illegal.

Each year on July 4, McCabe said the fire department sent a truck around town as a safety patrol that educated the public about proper fireworks usage. This year, McCabe said the department would try to have two trucks out and about. Dahlem said officers were scheduled to patrol the city-sponsored show at Eudora High School as well as other areas of town that night.

If weather around the holiday is too windy or dry, posing a fire hazard, McCabe said the city always had the prerogative to prohibit fireworks.

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