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City talks light up





The customary bangs, crackles and whistles of fireworks, silenced in Hays and a large part of the state July 4 due to fireworks bans, was a focus of Hays city commissioners at their Thursday night work session.

City Manager Toby Dougherty said it was a relatively quiet holiday season, due to the fireworks ban; however, he and other city staff members had discussed a need for a more consistent approach to city fireworks policies and hoped to bring forward an ordinance to address what has become somewhat of a guessing game each year.

Complaints of all possible fireworks policy variables have arisen each year since fireworks within city limits have been allowed, he said. The list of complaints Dougherty compiled was exhaustive.

"Since I've been here, we have received negative feedback on the fact that we don't allow good enough fireworks to be shot off or we're allowing too good of fireworks to be shot off," he said.

"You can't shoot off early enough in the day or you let them shoot too early in the day."

A culmination of years of dealing with residents' complaints led staff to consider a more permanent solution.

Considering fire damage potential, enforcement issues and trash-strewn streets, Dougherty said staff recommended a permanent ban on fireworks within the city.

Another option, he said, would be an ordinance to move the decision as to whether fireworks would be allowed to the last regular commission meeting each June, so weather considerations would be more timely.

In addition, the ordinance would remove the ability of the mayor to make the decision to forbid fireworks and put a fireworks ban decision in the commission's hands.

"Our suggestion is if you want to allow them, at least make the decision later in the year, where it's based on real-time data," Dougherty said.

Commissioner Henry Schwaller IV said putting an ordinance in place to call for a commission vote in early June could help commissioners avoid the pitfalls of changing fireworks policy on a yearly basis.

Commissioner Barbara Wasinger agreed, adding the decision-making process should be consistent.

It was the consensus of the commission to have Dougherty draft an ordinance calling for commissioners to make a fireworks determination at the last regular commission meeting each May.

Two fireworks vendors in the audience gave commissioners their support and respect for making a tough decision during the holiday season.

"Certainly, as a farmer here in Ellis County, I appreciate how significant this drought is, and it had a far greater impact on this community than the lack of fireworks," said Rick Binder, who runs a fundraising fireworks stand for Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish. "I think the most important thing that all of us would appreciate is consistency.

"The policy is changed year after year, and it would be a lot easier for all of us ... to know what the rules are."

Another item reviewed by commissioners was a job bounty application for Energy Pioneer Solutions of Hastings, Neb., to provide job bounty incentives for 12 full-time employees in the amount of $15,500.