When Mason Nickols addressed the Prairie City City Council in early November, the sound of his dog barking night after night this summer still rang in his ears.
Nickols and his wife have lived in Prairie City for three years, and like many other Prairie City residents, he was concerned with the number of days and long hours his neighbors were allowed to light fireworks under the city’s new ordinance passed in June. It mirrored the state law, permitting Iowans to set off fireworks through nearly the entire month of June passed the July 4 holiday.
With the next round of fireworks looming in December, Nickols hoped the city council would listen to his concerns.
“The law wasn’t community oriented. It was very broad. It didn’t allow for those who it negatively impacts to adequately prepare. It’s just too wide of a range,” he said.
The city council took note and at a special meeting Nov. 29, passed a more restrictive fireworks ordinance, trying to balance citizens’ rights to celebrate the holidays and their neighbors’ rights to a good night’s sleep.
The amended ordinance scales back the window residents have to shoot off fireworks in December. Residents can now use fireworks only from Dec. 20 through Jan 1 within city limits. The previous ordinance allowed the explosives from Dec. 10 through Jan. 3.
Dates for use of fireworks around Independence Day remain unchanged allowing displays June 1 through July 8.
The hours when fireworks are permitted was also reduced. Fireworks are now allowed only from 6 to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and from 6 to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursdays. The ordinance has exceptions on July 4, extending firework use to 11 p.m. and Dec. 31 permitting their use from 6 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. The vote was 3-0.
The ordinance reflects complaints council members and city staff received about the length of time and number or days fireworks were allowed under the state ordinance, Mayor Chad Alleger said. A majority of citizens want neighbors to be allowed to celebrate the July 4 and New Years holidays, but keep the loud noise to more respectful hours.
Alleger said some residents also complained about debris and casings which littered streets and yards during June to early July earlier this year.
Brenda Downey is a registered nurse who lives in Prairie City. She also addressed the council last week supporting increased fireworks restrictions. Her concerns are not only the noise at late hours but safety and allowing veterans suffering PTSD a more defined window of time to prepare.
“I’m not sure what’s driving this, other than now we have a market for it and people want to sell them. I think we need to limit them to just a few hours (July 4) and on New Years the same thing,” Downey said. “I want to work with people who are proponents of (fireworks) and want to use them.”
The council first approved firework use in city limits June 21, mirroring the new state law permitting their sale and use passed by Iowa lawmakers during the 2017 legislative session. The law allows cities to make the decision to restrict firework use beyond the state code or ban them entirely.
Many cities in Jasper County allowed the state law to take affect, but have been reevaluating the allowed dates and times since observing usage this summer.
Contact Mike Mendenhall at email@example.com