Waukee starting process for further fireworks restrictions

Clint Cole - Editor
The Waukee Fireworks display started at 9:30 p.m. in Centennial Park. Food, games and live music was available in Centennial Park in Waukee on the Fourth of July with Fireworks starting after dark. PHOTO BY CLINT COLE/DALLAS COUNTY NEWS

This year, with the new state fireworks law in place, the City of Waukee allowed fireworks to be shot off between the dates of June 30 through July 9 and was set to allow fireworks to be shot off in the early hours of noon on New Year’s Eve through 12:30 a.m. on New Year’s Day. After seeing the first part of the pilot program through, the Waukee City Council began the process of imposing much stricter restrictions.

The council, at their meeting on Monday, July 24, approved a first reading of an ordinance that would restrict fireworks usage in the summer to July 3-4 from 9 a.m. until 11 p.m. The council also unanimously voted ‘no’ on the first reading of an ordinance to continue to allow fireworks usage on New Year’s Day.

The ordinances that were voted on were amended from what came out of a work session earlier in July. The ordinance that came out of the work session was a single ordinance to allow fireworks usage for three days, from July 2-4 from 9 a.m. until 10 p.m. and on from noon on Dec. 31 through 12:30 a.m. on Jan. 1.

Although they only tested the June and July portion of the “pilot program” this year, councilwoman Anna Bergman said that she thinks they already know enough to make changes to the law.

“I believe that we have thoroughly tested what our citizens are willing to deal with for these fireworks,” Bergman said.

Mayor Bill Peard suggested that they extend the time period from to 11 p.m. on July 4, as opposed to the previously discussed 10 p.m. from the work session.

“Thinking about it, on the Fourth of July, it doesn’t get dark, really, until 9:30, so I’m proposing that, maybe, on the day of the holiday, to take it to 11 o’clock,” Peard said. “But I can’t do that without a council person making that amendment on the ordinance.”

Councilwoman Shelly Hughes, who was in favor of the 3-day time period, but was not dead set on keeping it that way, said that it didn’t make sense to her to have the time period go until 11 p.m. on July 4 and that she was in favor of keeping the same times that were discussed in the work session.

“I’m more set on keeping the same times,” Hughes said. “I’m with you that it gets dark late, but, I think at our work session we talked about the fact that more people have the Fourth of July off, but they don’t have the fifth of July off.”

She said that keeping the rule of no fireworks after 10 p.m., it might discourage people from shooting them off later and that people will still push the limits if the time limit was 11 p.m.

Councilman Brian Harrison said that he was in favor of either the three-day rule or the two-day rule, but felt there needed to be consistency in the time frame.

“I don’t think that letting it go another hour on the fourth is going to reduce the number of complaints we receive,” Harrison said. “I know there’s a lot of people out there that like to shoot off fireworks… I’d be in favor of an ammendment to change the dates. As far as the time (11 p.m.), I would not support it.”

Councilman Charlie Bottenberg said that he was in favor of the two-day limit, but also agreed with Peard that they should extend the time limit to 11 p.m.

“There are a lot of people who are going to go to the City’s fireworks and then would like some time later that night to set them off and I think that the data showed… that cities who had completely banned fireworks did not stop hardly anyone from setting them off,” Bottenberg said. “So, to me, the difference between 10 o’clock and 11 o’clock is really just a difference of where we are drawing the line.”

The amended ordinance, approving fireworks use from July 3-4 from 9 a.m. until 11 p.m. passed 3-1, with Harrison as the only ‘no’ vote.

The ordinance regarding fireworks use over New Years was the same as the ordinance stood going into the meeting, just separated from the ordinance regarding use in July.

Harrison expressed his opposition to the use of fireworks on the New Year’s holiday.

“I just don’t think it’s something that’s necessary,” Harrison said. “When I celebrate New Year’s Eve, I don’t think about going out on my driveway and shooting off a bottle rocket or a mortar shell or something like that. My vote will be ‘no’ on this portion.”

Peard said that he would have liked to have carried out the full “pilot program,” including allowing fireworks on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, before deciding to change the ordinance, but the first reading of the ordinance was unanimously voted down anyways.

The second reading of the ordinance allowing fireworks on July 3-4 will take place at the next City Council Meeting on Monday, Aug. 8 at Waukee City Hall. Three readings will need to be passed before the ordinance goes into law.