Fireworks dates set in Hays
By KALEY CONNER
In a 3-0 vote Thursday evening, Hays City Commissioners agreed fireworks will be allowed within city limits from July 3 to 5. The devices can be used from 10 a.m. to midnight July 3 and 4, and from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. July 5, a Monday night.
This Independence Day also will be the first year some aerial fireworks will be allowed in Hays. This fall, commissioners amended the city ordinance to make local guidelines consistent with state law.
That means some aerial devices, such as Roman candles, will be legal. Other varieties, such as bottle rockets, are prohibited.
Mayor Chris Channell said he has heard from residents who have concerns regarding the new policy. Specifically, he asked who would be liable if the devices would damage a neighboring property.
"I think some of the concerns of people that e-mailed were damage to property, somebody setting off fireworks and it causes a fire on your property," Channell said. "Whose liability?"
Carol Park, an attorney filling in for City Attorney John Bird, said the person shooting the fireworks would be responsible for any damage.
The city's previous "safe-and-sane" regulations allowed only devices that remained on the ground, such as fountains. This ordinance was difficult to enforce, as aerial fireworks were legal and available outside city limits, Hays Police Chief James Braun said.
"What we were seeing, though, was that people in the county and even some of the local vendors ... were trying to sell some aerial fireworks, or people were buying them outside of city limits and bringing them in and shooting them," he said. "It caused a real nightmare trying to enforce this."
Hays Fire Chief Gary Brown said fireworks use has not resulted in serious fires during the past several years. There have been a few nuisance fires, he said, noting residents have had the flames extinguished before help arrives.
"For the volume of the fireworks we've seen over the past couple of years, we haven't seen a significant fire problem," he said.
Additional firefighters, however, will be on duty as a precaution when fireworks are being used.
Commissioner Ron Mellick also expressed concern about residents shooting fireworks on public property.
"That's not legal, to be out in the street impeding traffic and leaving all of their trash out in the city," he said. "I think that's something we're going to have to address."
Braun said the city will compile a list of fireworks regulations and tips to be distributed at local vendors.
Vice Mayor Barbara Wasinger and Commissioner Henry Schwaller IV were absent.
In other business:
* Hays resident Wendy Gallington asked the commission to consider allowing residents to keep chickens in their backyards and presented them with supporting documentation. The issue will be discussed at a future work session.
* Commissioners approved the 2010 street maintenance program, targeting reconstruction of southbound canal from 27th to 30th, 37th Street east of Vine, and brick street repairs. Both roads will be concrete, with a total cost of about $589,000.
* A total of $5,000 in additional funding was approved for the city's washing machine rebate program.
* Commissioners approved a job bounty application for A-1 Scaffold Manufacturing Inc.
* The commission heard an update about the completion of a re-utilization project at Smoky Hill well field.
* A resolution for public improvements for Tallgrass Phase IV addition was approved, as well as bids for street and storm sewer, water and sanitary sewer improvements, and a contract for engineering services.