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Archive for Wednesday, October 23, 2002

Commission OKs fireworks ban

October 23, 2002

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The snap, crackle and pop of fireworks, the accompanying heavy smell of sulfur and the burned-out carcasses of spent rockets are about to fizzle into memories in Lawrence.

Lawrence city commissioners Tuesday voted to ban fireworks in the city starting next July 4.

Commissioners cited the wishes of public safety officials as the deciding factor in their decision.

"I'm as patriotic as anyone," Commissioner Jim Henry said. "But I think a person's right to enjoy themselves stops when it comes to threatening injuries to life and property."

Henry made the motion in favor of a ban; Commissioner David Dunfield seconded. They were joined by Mayor Sue Hack and Commissioner Mike Rundle in the vote. Commissioner Marty Kennedy cast the lone dissenting vote.

Kennedy suggested after the vote a fireworks ban would be ineffective.

"I've been here 50 years," he said. "It's going to take 50 years to stop them."

Hack said the city's ban will be harder to enforce because county officials have said they don't want to ban fireworks sales outside city limits.

"We're not being great partners with the county," she said, "but we have to take care of our own situation."

The city currently allows fireworks select hours three days a year, July 2-4. Sales inside city limits are prohibited, but they flourish in the unincorporated parts of Douglas County, and city residents can store their own fireworks if done in accordance with safety codes.

After a fireworks-related apartment fire in 2001, city commissioners began considering a possible ban. City officials also have complained about trash from fireworks left on streets and in parks after the Independence Day holiday.

The specter of a ban provoked considerable debate.

"I've had two e-mails on our $107 million budget," Hack said, "and hundreds on this issue."

Fireworks vendors and some Lawrence residents pleaded Tuesday against a ban, saying they wanted to continue to celebrate Independence Day in traditional fashion.

"Let us celebrate the way we always have," said Gary Bartz, co-chair of the Douglas County Fireworks Assn.

Commissioners rejected a compromise offered by the association to stop selling many types of aerial fireworks after hearing from Lawrence-Douglas County Fire & Medical Chief Jim McSwain.

"A total ban, from a fire-protection standpoint and a safety standpoint, is our top priority," he said.

Big, licensed fireworks displays  like those sponsored annually by the Lawrence Jaycees  still will be allowed. Commissioners suggested they may do more to subsidize such communitywide celebrations.

But neighborhood parties where the youngsters shoot off Roman candles will be illegal beginning next July 4.

"The danger is so clear," Dunfield said. "In a case like this, public safety has to come before private enjoyment."

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