BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – After the third straight meeting where city residents addressed city leaders about fireworks in the city, Mayor Brad Randolph said it’s time to take another look at the ordinance.
At Tuesday’s regular meeting of the Fort Madison City Council, city residents Theresa Dearing and Bonnie Neyens both expressed concerns about the recent open fireworks period in the city surrounding the 4th of July holiday.
State laws changed in 2017 to allow fireworks to be sold in Iowa and set new time frames when shooting fireworks off within the state would be legal.
“I love the fireworks in the park on 4th of July, but the rest of the fireworks going on from the first of June until last night was not acceptable to me,” Dearing said.
She said the night she came back from the fireworks at the park was like a war zone in her neighborhood and she could see it in her husband’s eyes, who is a veteran and served in Vietnam. She also said her house burned when she was younger, so she has a fear of fire.
Dearing asked about the liability if a firework lands on a house or damages property.
“Who’s liable there? That’s a concern for me.”
Neyens said she also would like the city to review the current code, which runs congruent with the state laws.
Randolph said he got to watch the fireworks on Ninth Street in the alley between avenues G and H.
“I came to a quick realization, I thought, boy this a free-for-all down here,” he said. “With fireworks going off in the middle of public streets and in areas I didn’t think they should be going off,” he said.
“I grew up shooting bottle rockets at my brother, and I like fireworks, but there’s probably a limit to what’s acceptable.”
He said after going through the full cycle of the fireworks with them being sold in town and everyone having easier access to them, the council should take another look at the code.
“I think that the city and the council need to take a hard look at what’s best for the citizens and the public going forward,” Randolph said.
Neyens said people have contacted her since she spoke up at the last meeting about the fireworks issue. She said they had concerns about caring for invalid relatives, people working shifts, people who like to go to bed early, people who keep their yards nice and don’t feel they should have to clean up trash in the yard.
Randolph said it would be more a comprehensive look at the law and because the law was passed relatively close to the holiday, the city went with the state’s code on the use of fireworks.
He said the sale of fireworks isn’t a windfall for the city when you factor in the small sales tax, offset by the costs of emergency services or police responding to calls.
“So be patient with us on that, but let us now take a good hard look at where we’re at and what we can do about it.”
Councilman Kevin Rink, who represents the area that Dearing and Neyens live, said the city followed the state as a trial and he agreed that the city needs to take another look at the code.
In other action, the council:
• voted 5-0, to approve city support for up to $50,000 in monetary and in-kind donations to prop up a local match for a $100,000 grant for the PORT Trail Phase III. City Public Works Director Larry Driscoll said the PORT committee is doing fundraising to pay the $50,000 match on their own, but Wellmark, the grant issuer wouldn’t issue the grant without the $50,000 support in place.
• voted 5-0, to approve transferring city owned property to Great River Regional Waste Authority for $1 to clean up some boundary issues that had occurred with past surveying.