• 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.

Fireworks up for debate

Council members split on possible ban

SOLON– Should Solon continue to allow fireworks?
The question will be put to a vote after council members informally split on the issue at a Sept. 2 meeting.
Council members Lynn Morris and Lauren Whitehead spoke in support of banning the private displays, allowed July 1-4 since late 2017.
“We had some complaints about the size of shows going on,” noted Mayor Steve Stange. He said Morris and members of the public asked for the topic to be revisited.
Morris reported receiving multiple communications from residents from July 4 through July 10 concerned about the density of the homes in areas where the fireworks were released.
Several residents wanted to know how to register reports of debris in their yard to the city, she said.
“On a personal note, this is the second year I had quite a bit of debris in my driveway and my yard,” she added.
Morris said her Plum Street neighborhood and Dubuque Street seemed to have the highest concentrations.
One family in particular was worried their windows were going to burst, she reported.
Everyone thought the displays were beautiful, she said. “There’s no question it was beautiful.”
But there were lots of questions about debris the next day, she continued.
Morris brought the issue up to City Administrator Cami Rasmussen and explored liability issues with representatives of insurance companies.
Based on the conversations, she said, the only way to hold a person responsible for damage caused by fireworks is to catch them in the act and the city doesn’t have a police department to respond.
“My proposal, and I’m just going to be very honest and I’m open to discussion because I’ve been asked to present it this way, is that we eliminate fireworks in Solon,” she said.
In 2017, 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.
Unlike many of its neighbors, Solon did not prohibit fireworks, but restricted their use.
By city 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.
Council member Dan O’Neil wondered if 2020 was an anomaly due to the lack of area community displays.
“Was it worse this year than usual? Has this been an ongoing problem? If it’s been an ongoing problem then I think my opinion would be different than if it was just this year,” O’Neil said. “This has been an extremely unusual year for everything. I wouldn’t want to change everything because of one year.”
He noted his lack of tenure on the council and suggested revisiting the ordinance after July 4 next year.
There were tons of displays in Solon this year, he said, but typically his family would have been in Cedar Rapids or Coralville watching a professional show.
“Given those displays didn’t take place, we just sat back at home and watched other people shooting them off,” he commented.
Morris noted she brought similar complaints up last year.
“Yes, it’s been an ongoing concern,” she said, adding some in the city have not been restricting their fireworks to the required days.
“But they’re going to do that anyway, right?” questioned council member John Farlinger.
Even if the city banned them, people would still shoot them off, he said.
“If the city made it illegal, I think you would see a lot less,” observed Stange.
2020 was worse than any other year as far as displays, he said.
While admittedly on the fence, Stange said the city should be aware of the potential for damage and injury.
“We still have concerns about where they land,” he said.
The first year fireworks were allowed, he pointed out, a grass fire was started in a residential area.
“As dry as it is now, that could be a bad thing,” he said.
The community has been fortunate no serious injuries have been sustained.
The first time that happens, he warned, council members will have to have the same discussion again.
While the displays can be annoying, he said, the bigger issue for the city is personal injury or property damage.
Whitehead agreed with Morris and Stange.
She compared the frequent displays to being in a war zone.
“It was thrilling, but alarming,” she noted. “The amount of trash that I saw the next day was concerning.”
Whitehead cited the inevitability of injury or fire as reasons for a ban.
“People were not practicing safety,” she said.
Solon resident Denny Hansen was at the 2017 meeting where Solon’s ordinance was considered, and his message hadn’t changed.
It’s just a matter of time before fireworks cause injury or damage, he said.
Hansen said he witnessed multiple people shooting off larger concussion displays in front yards with kids no farther away than Hansen was from the council members.
One neighbor, he said, had kids out on the driveway with him when a display fell over.
“Luckily, it fell away from his house where the kids were and was shooting across the street towards my house,” Hansen noted.
Late-night fireworks are also disruptive for children and adults trying to sleep, he observed.
Although Hansen was in favor of an outright ban, he suggested at least limiting the timeframe to the holiday as a possible compromise.
“That way everybody knows, that on the Fourth of July we’re going to shoot off fireworks,” he said.
He predicted the number of households shooting fireworks next year would decrease, but the size of the displays probably won’t.
While Stange felt a ban would be difficult to enforce for law enforcement, noting even larger departments just chase from call to call, Hansen recommended peer pressure as an effective tool.
When Stange asked if any council members supported leaving the ordinance as-is, O’Neil was the only one to speak, reiterating his desire to wait a year.
The mayor directed City Attorney Kevin Olson to prepare a draft ordinance prohibiting fireworks for consideration at a future council meeting.
If a majority wanted to leave it alone, he said, we would, but we’ve got a split council. Council members will have their chance to work it out then.