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Council limits fireworks: July 1 through 4

Proposed ordinance would eliminate New Year’s displays

By Doug Lindner
Solon Economist
SOLON– The window for shooting off fireworks displays in the City of Solon is going to close a bit.
At a Wednesday, Aug. 16, meeting, members of the Solon City Council informally approved language for an ordinance that would limit private fireworks to July 1 through July 4.
“The people that hate it are going to have to tolerate it for a week, not a month,” Mayor Steve Stange commented.
City Attorney Kevin Olson was directed to prepare an ordinance for future approval by council members.
State legislation, signed into law in early May, approved the sale, purchase and use of fireworks across the state.
The law 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.
The new city restrictions would limit fireworks use in Solon to July 1 through July 4 only, while still retaining the same hours. No fireworks would be allowed for the New Year’s Eve holiday.
Council members originally discussed the state law July 5, but opted to continue the topic after public input.
Unlike many of its neighbors, including North Liberty, Tiffin, Ely and the unincorporated portions of Johnson County, Solon elected not to initially restrict the state law. While North Liberty decided to keep its current ordinance banning fireworks use in place, Ely chose to reduce the window available for residents.
At the July 5 session, however, council member Lauren Whitehead reported receiving concerns from residents about safety, the reactions of their dogs and adherence to the time limits, suggesting limits similar to Ely’s.
The lack of enforcement was a sticking point.
According to Sheriff Lonny Pulkrabek, law enforcement agencies in the county received a total of 514 calls between June 30 and July 4 regarding fireworks use; 57 of those were received by the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office.
At the Aug. 16 meeting, council members found common ground after substantial discussion.
None of the council members were in favor of an outright ban, but all of them wanted to tweak the number of days in some fashion.
Council member Lynn Morris recounted how she was out for a walk weeks after the deadline for fireworks was passed and came across two fathers and their sons setting off fireworks on 5th Street.
“Technically, I should have called 911,” Morris said. “But it wasn’t hurting anything. That is where I am stuck. And I’ve heard them since then.”
Morris had approached residents on her street whom had shot off displays, and they were not opposed to restrictions.
Because it will be difficult to enforce, council member Steve Duncan suggested the city make a decision that could be easily communicated to residents.
“I just think coming up with some clear guidelines, something that people can rest their hat on,” he said. “This is when we’re allowing it. This is when it’s supposed to end.”
All agreed to keep the hours intact, but a number of variations to the number of days were considered.
“The simpler, the better,” council Mark Prentice agreed.
Retired firefighter Denny Hansen, asked for his opinion, told council members safety has to be the main priority.
“Mixing fireworks and alcohol is what causes most of these problems with fireworks,” Hansen said, noting improper use also contributes to injuries.
He suggested limiting displays to a certain period so people with early work schedules or dogs can be prepared.