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County continues fireworks ban

6/17/2014

By MATTHEW KENWRIGHT

By MATTHEW KENWRIGHT

mkenwright@dailynews.net

Fireworks remain banned in Ellis County after the county commission met Monday and tabled a resolution allowing flexibility with the prohibition.

The measure would have tweaked the existing ban on use, sale and purchase of fireworks, sky lanterns and similar devices. The proposal enabled commissioners to relax the regulation on use during a specific date range.

The resolution will be reconsidered in mid-July after the Fourth of July has passed and there is less interest in fireworks, according to commissioners.

Commissioner Swede Holmgren said the measure's wording could lead to misunderstanding the commission's potential power as an official decision.

"I read in the newspaper or hear on the radio, through the media, that the county has exercised its ability to relax the regulation. I'm not going to read any farther," Holmgren said. "I'm going to say let's go buy fireworks and set 'em off."

Tom Drees, Ellis County attorney, explained the ban partially is due to emergency agencies' inability to ensure the safety and security of fireworks stands scattered in rural areas.

Ellis County Rural Fire Director Dick Klaus said he did not recommend lifting the ban.

In other business:

* Commissioners opposed moving forward with applying for the courthouse to be listed on the National Registry of Historic Places. The designation would grant tax credits eligible for sale, but commissioners voiced concerns about whether it would block plans to renovate the building.

Holmgren said the revenue would help "tremendously," but he wants county residents to retain sovereignty over their courthouse.

"Until somebody can prove to me that the government will keep their hands off of our courthouse, and assure me in writing as (county) commissioner that everything they have promised us will come to fruition, I don't give a tinker's damn about the $300,000," he said. "I don't think the county ought to sell its soul for $300,000."

* Community groups addressed the commissioners and explained their need for subsidies in the next budget. Requests came from the Ellis County Historical Society ($120,100 and 100-percent allocation from the county parks and recreation fund), Humane Society of the High Plains ($5,000), Ellis Junior Free Fair ($7,250), Developmental Services of Northwest Kansas ($262,500) and ACCESS Transportation ($98,002)

* Commissioners approved an employment connections contract with DSNWK.

* An agreement to inspect bridges was confirmed with the Kansas Department of Transportation.

* Commissioners signed the federal fund exchange agreement to bank its funds from the federal government as granted rather than exchanging them for state dollars at this time.

* Commissioners considered proposals for a temporary office location for staff with the courthouse and Law Enforcement Center during planned renovations. The Hadley Center, 205 E. Seventh, submitted a monthly rent of $17,900, and owners of the former Hays Pathology Laboratory on 13th bid its space for $5,000 a month. The lab's costs did not include fees such as insurance and maintenance, and commissioners asked for a more detailed estimate.