BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – What was labeled as discussion and possible action on the use of fireworks within city limits, turned into the latter at the last minute.
At Monday’s regular meeting of the Fort Madison City Council, a proposal was put on the table to limit the use of fireworks in the city to six days. Last year, residents could use fireworks for up to 60 days including the upcoming Christmas and New Years holidays.
However, a motion from Councilman Bob Morawitz to eliminate fireworks within the city limits got a second from Councilman Matt Mohrfeld and then passed unanimously, 6-0. Councilman Chad Cangas and Mayor Brad Randolph were absent from the meeting.
The motion would still allow permitted fireworks displays such as the Fort Madison Partners city display and would allow the use of low-grade sparklers, smoke bombs, and snakes on residential property, but wouldn’t allow anything that is explosive propelled.
City Manager David Varley said the proposal was put in front of the council, but the council had two options, to end the use of fireworks in the city or consider the proposal and possibly amend it.
Chris Greenwald, serving as Mayor Pro Tem in Randolph’s absence, started the conversation saying he would prefer a no vote on the use of the fireworks, but would consider allowing them in a place away from homes like Rodeo Park.
“For me it’s gonna be real simple – No,” Greenwald said. “These have no place being in residential areas. I’m concerned about the public, especially the military people who have come forward. I run a place down there on the highway and I never served. And I get to do that because of those that have. So if they don’t want it, I don’t want it.”
Morawitz, who revealed at the meeting that’s he’s battling stage 4 cancer, pushed the motion because there was concern from members of the audience that the measure wouldn’t be passed in time to be on the books before the December window that would allow more fireworks to be used within the city. Morawitz said he was going to go through chemotherapy and would continue to represent the voters to his fullest ability. The council then offered their full support for his battle.
“We’re talking about banning everything and I don’t agree with that,” Mohrfeld said. “Kids should be able to do sparklers, snakes, and that kind of thing. But there’s concern here that this wouldn’t be passed in time for these people.”
The measure will now be put into an ordinance that will be the same language the city had two years ago, which carries a $500 fine for use of non-approved fireworks. Police will have authority to confiscate any fireworks not allowed if a citation is issued for illegal use. The citation will also transfer to the parents of any juvenile found using or discharging non-approved fireworks.
In an unrelated issue, the council approved a new contract with Rathbun Regional Water Association with an increase in the charge to the water association of about 19 cents per 1,000 gallons. City Public Works director Larry Driscoll said it costs the city about $1.60 to produce a thousand gallons so the city was making about 10 cents per 1,000 gallons last year. The increased rate will be $1.89 with a minimum purchase of 22 million gallons per month.
The RRWA also purchases water from Burlington, Mount Pleasant, and Keokuk and Mohrfeld, who voted against the new service contract, asked what other communities were getting paid for their water. Driscoll said he didn’t have actual figures in front of him, but said Burlington was charging about $1.60/1,000 gallons, Mt. Pleasant was getting $2.40/1,000, and Keokuk was approximately $2.13/1,000. He said, however, that both Keokuk and Mount Pleasant were supplying far less water than Fort Madison.
The motion to approve the new contract passed with a 5-1 vote.