COUNCIL BLUFFS — The tents are down and the loud, colorful, hazy evenings are over, but people in Council Bluffs are still talking about fireworks.
At least two Council Bluffs City Council members think the city should enact a fireworks ban.
The council set June 29, June 30 and July 4 as the three days when fireworks could be set off in Council Bluffs this year. But the city received a deluge of complaints about fireworks being shot off on other days. And the number of fireworks-related calls were up.
“I’m not a killjoy. We tried to make it reasonable for both sides,” council member Nate Watson said, referring to those who enjoy fireworks and those who don’t. “That’s not happening.”
Watson and others cited the effects of fireworks on people, including veterans, coping with post-traumatic stress and other conditions, as well as the impact on dogs.
Council member Sharon White said, “I vote we go back to banning them. The people proved they weren’t going to follow the law.”
The Iowa Legislature legalized the sale, purchase and possession of most consumer fireworks during its 2017 session. The law allows local municipalities to restrict their use.
Sales from licensed shops are allowed between June 1 and July 8, as well as from Dec. 10 to Jan. 3. Temporary fireworks stands are allowed from June 13 to July 8.
This year, Sioux City and Council Bluffs were among the largest Iowa cities to still allow the use of fireworks.
Fireworks bans were passed in Des Moines, Cedar Rapids and other cities in Iowa after July 4, 2017.
In Omaha, Mayor Jean Stothert recently proposed a change in city ordinance to reduce the time that fireworks could be set off from 10 days to five days.
At last week’s Bluffs City Council meeting and study session, council members and Mayor Matt Walsh said they received angry phone calls about fireworks — particularly extra loud ones. Walsh mentioned one caller who liked “the pretty ones,” but not the “window shakers.”
During the meeting, a few members of the public voiced concerns.
“I do not have a problem with people celebrating the Fourth. I can live with one day of inconvenience within my own life and enjoy some of the local street fireworks,” Darlene Kofoed said.
But she criticized the extended use of fireworks. “I am frustrated, tired, irritable because of sleep deprivation.”
Council members Roger Sandau and Melissa Head said they would vote against a resolution to ban fireworks when the products are still legal for purchase.
“The problem wasn’t the three allowed dates. People didn’t care if it was legal or not legal,” Head said.
Councilman Mike Wolf, a likely swing vote on the issue, said he’s waiting to find out the number of incidents reported in the 10 largest cities in the state “to compare and contrast.”
The debate comes as Council Bluffs saw an increase in the number of fireworks-related police calls this year.
From June 29 through July 8, police responded to 256 calls. In comparison, 136 calls were reported from June 30, 2017, through July 9, 2017.
At least five people suffered fireworks-related injuries in Council Bluffs. In one case, a fireworks device blew up in a man’s hand as he tried to throw it from a car during a disturbance at the Council Bluffs skate park.
Council Bluffs Fire Chief Justin James said fireworks also sparked a fire underneath a deck of a Council Bluffs home.
Statewide, one person died as a result of a fireworks incident. An 18-year-old Waverly, Iowa, man died of injuries he suffered after he got too close to a fireworks device that malfunctioned on July 7.
The fireworks issue isn’t expected to be discussed at the Bluffs council’s Monday meeting, but it may come up at subsequent meetings.
This report includes material from the Associated Press.
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