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Archive for Thursday, October 24, 2002

t ban fireworks

October 24, 2002

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Fireworks may be illegal this Independence Day in Lawrence, but vendors still will be able to sell sparklers, fountains and Saturn Missile Batteries at the edge of the city limits.

A majority of Douglas County commissioners say they aren't about to ban the sale of fireworks in the county's unincorporated areas, despite the Lawrence City Commission's decision Tuesday night to ban the use of fireworks in the city.

And while the majority of the county's fireworks consumers live in Lawrence, area vendors also have no intention of folding up their tents.

"If we don't sell, somebody else will," said Gary Bartz, co-owner of Bartz Brothers Fireworks and co-chairman of the Douglas County Fireworks Assn., which represents 13 of the 21 vendors that sold fireworks in the county this year. "There still will be demand for it."

City and county officials had attempted to work toward a compromise that would have addressed the city's concerns about safety, trash and noise connected with the use of fireworks. The vendors' association, in turn, offered to prohibit the sale of sparklers, stand-alone rockets and other troublesome products that caused complaints.

That compromise ended Tuesday, when city commissioners voted to ban the personal use of fireworks in Lawrence. Only licensed displays will be permitted, such as the traditional Lawrence Jaycees-sponsored celebration on the banks of the Kansas River.

County commissioners, meanwhile, intend to stick by their guns and preserve the ability of people to buy, sell and shoot off fireworks in unincorporated areas  even if it makes it harder to keep fireworks out of Lawrence. Many vendors' tents end up just across the street from the city.

"I think what they did is an overreaction," said Commissioner Bob Johnson, who joins Commissioner Jere McElhaney in favoring fireworks sales and use in the county. Commissioner Charles Jones favors a county ban.

"I've heard more complaints about the way Massachusetts Street looks on a Sunday morning  with all the pop bottles and trash  than I have about fireworks," Johnson said.

Bartz said he would continue to sell fireworks this July 2, 3 and 4, although his order will be half as large as a year earlier.

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