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Washington council approves limits on fireworks

WASHINGTON — After months of discussion, the Washington City Council has voted to alter the fireworks ordinance, making them illegal to set off within city limits.

The board voted 4-1 — with Steven Gault absent — on Tuesday on the third reading of the ordinance.

There was no discussion at the meeting, and council members voted the same as during previous readings.

The conversation started when two residents spoke to the council on July 7 after their house caught fire over the Fourth of July weekend.

Bubba and James Shepherd asked the council to consider banning fireworks or making a specific area designated for fireworks.

“Please come together and come up with a solution so this won’t happen next year to somebody else,” James Shepherd said.

The City Council decided to revisit the ordinance at the Aug. 4 meeting.

At that meeting, the majority of council members said they only were contacted by residents who wanted them banned.

Previously, the city’s policy was to allow consumer-grade fireworks July 3 from 9 a.m. until 10 p.m., July 4 from 9 a.m. until 11 p.m. and Dec. 31 from 9 a.m. until 12:30 a.m. on Jan. 1.

Mayor Jaron Rosien said even if fireworks are illegal to be set off in the city limits, they will still be sold in the city during the times around Fourth of July and New Year’s.

“This is the state law, and we cannot change it at the local level,” Rosien said.

Council member Steve Gault said he heard from several residents who wanted to keep the ordinance the same. Gault said the community has continued to compromise as the ordinance has changed over the years.

Changing the ordinance again would not prevent people from launching fireworks, he said, and suggested it would instead make things worse.

On Sept. 1, City Council member Fran Stigers said he surveyed homes in his ward and found 66.4 percent of his ward wants fireworks.

Council member Elaine Moore said because the majority of her constituents asked for them to be banned, she felt it was necessary for the council to take action.

The ordinance passed its first reading on Aug. 4, the second reading was tabled on Aug. 18 due to the absence of member Elaine Moore but revisited and passed on Sept. 1.

Washington joins Kalona, Riverside and Wellman as the fourth city in Washington County to ban them. However, fireworks will continued to be sold in town in accordance with state laws.

“If citizens wish to have this law enforced they will have to be willing to call in violations, and potentially provide evidence of violations or be willing to testify as an eyewitness to violations,” Rosien said.