That city and country governmental bodies focus on different responsibilities is a given. There are, however, areas of overlap.
Once such task is that of public safety. Even though each entity utilizes separate organizations to accomplish the task, such as the county having a sheriff's office and the city having a police department, the customer is the same person.
Which is why we're having a difficult time understanding opposing decisions regarding fireworks this year. On Thursday, the Hays City Commission is expected to ban both the sale and use of consumer fireworks for the Fourth of July weekend. On Monday, the Ellis County Commission opted to allow sales. Use will be decided closer to the holiday.
Current drought conditions are the same throughout the county. Rains during the past week have helped slightly alleviate the exceptional and extreme portions, but even the best areas only can boast of severe drought conditions. Add to that a drier-than-usual forecast for the next six weeks -- and we'll likely be experiencing a hot, dry and windy Independence Day.
The county vote wasn't unanimous. The newest commissioner, Barbara Wasinger, noted the foolishness of the decision when casting her nay vote. Ellis County Rural Fire Director Dick Klaus said he is in favor of banning the use, but will wait to make a formal decision. And County Administrator Greg Sund had pointed out the mixed message created by having sales but no use if that ends up being the case.
But commissioners Dean Haselhorst and Swede Holmgren don't want to pass on the business opportunity. Haselhorst believes neighboring counties will fill the void. Holmgren noted the small church groups that depend on fireworks sales as fund-raisers.
We believe the decision to allow fireworks sales is short-sighted and potentially dangerous. It is not a stretch of the imagination to imagine many residents who, if allowed to buy fireworks, will use them even if there's eventually a ban.
Why borrow trouble? We don't know. The risk-reward component of the county's decision should have sided in favor of safety concerns. Placing the responsibility of ensuring there are no grassfires or burned homes and vehicles in the hands of individual residents is not the proper route to take.
The Ellis County Commission erred on this vote. The general public would have understood and dealt with a fireworks-free Fourth. Instead, they'll be forced to hope for the best.
As the dissenting Wasinger said: "It's just foolish."
Editorial by Patrick Lowry