Fairfield Ledger

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Neighbors Growing Together | May 21, 2018

Council discusses fireworks law

By Nicole Major, Ledger staff writer | Jul 11, 2017
Photo by: Nicole Major/Ledger photo Fairfield Police Chief David Thomas addresses the council on fireworks during its regular meeting Monday at city hall.

Fairfield City Council members discussed the outcome of the first year of legalized personal fireworks.

Gov. Terry Branstad signed the bill legalizing fireworks for the state of Iowa May 9. The bill went into effect immediately. However, cities and counties were given jurisdiction over how long within a 60-day period that citizens would be allowed to discharge personal fireworks.

Fairfield City Council approved a fireworks ordinance in late June permitting consumer fireworks to be discharged from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. from June 30 through July 8, and additionally until 11 p.m. July 4. Fireworks are allowed to be discharged for several days around the new year.

Mayor Ed Malloy said that he observed an “overzealous” reaction to the ability for citizens to be able to legally purchase fireworks in their own backyards and discharge them for nine or 10 days.

He asked Fairfield Police Chief David Thomas about what he experienced at the police department.

Thomas said that police dispatch had received an increase in calls due to the fireworks, but that most of the complaints were questions from citizens wanting to know how long the period would last.

“I think I smoothed it over with people,” Thomas said, explaining that the calls were not considered high priority.

“Most neighbors got along great,” Thomas said, adding that many of the calls that they received were complaints of discharges after 10 p.m., but they would be over by the time an officer arrived on the scene.

Thomas said that he had also spoken to Fairfield Fire Chief Scott Vaughan, and that there hadn’t been any reports of fires due to fireworks.

“There were no injuries; no citations; no medical calls,” Thomas said, reiterating that the police department did get a lot of inquiry calls.

Council member Michael Haley said that he had heard from community members who were displeased about the fireworks, such as young parents who struggled to get their children to bed at night due to the noise, concerned pet owners and disabled individuals who couldn’t easily leave their homes to get away from the noise.

Halley, who said he lives near Howard Park, said “from 9:30-10 p.m. was like I was in a war zone.”

He further explained that the “long window” reserved for discharging fireworks, which are typically during July 4, was excessive.

“It might be something we want to look at starting next May,” Haley said, adding that some people thought the ordinance got passed without them even knowing about it.

However, Halley said he explained to people that it wasn’t a “one-sided” issue, and that it was multifaceted. He told people that, obviously, there were people who did enjoy fireworks, as evidenced by the sheer number of people who were firing them off.

Council member Tom Thompson also commented that he had received a call and an email from citizens who said they understood the celebration, but thought that the period was too long.

Malloy said he also received similar calls from citizens.

“We had this discussion,” Thomas said. “I apologize for the short time frame we had to pass the ordinance. Most laws are effective July 1 ... now they are making them active as soon as the governor decides them. We had to get those readings through ... all three of them.”

Thomas said that he had heard from other people in law enforcement who agreed that it was difficult to get the city ordinances through in the short time frame.

Malloy said that it did go longer than expected. “I would have preferred something shorter, right around the fourth. We can look at that next year.”

“I’d like to think that we’d have more than 30 days to get an ordinance passed and signed,” said council member Katy Anderson.

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