The discharge of fireworks on both Friday, July 3, and Saturday, July 4, will be allowed in unincorporated areas of Barton County following a split County Commission decision Monday morning.
The resolution permitting the extra day for feting the Fourth was requested and supported by commission Chairman Kenny Schremmer. He saw it as an opportunity to help fireworks vendors impacted when drought conditions forced a country ban in 2012.
“It’s kind of a nice gesture,” he said. “This, in some small way, is an expression of appreciation to those businesses that suffered by the ban on fireworks.”
However, the sentiment was not universal. “I’ve gotten more calls on this than I have a lot of things, and most of them have been negative,” Commissioner Jennifer Schartz said.
She feared pitting the fireworks against the farmers as wheat harvest may still be underway come Independence Day. There has been a wet spring, but hot, dry winds can quickly turn things around.
Besides, she said, the commission’s action doesn’t apply to the incorporated cities in the county. The potential for added calls could strain these taxing entities’ budgets.
Also against the idea were many of the county’s fire chiefs. “I’m not doing my job if I don’t come here and say I am opposed to this,” Ellinwood Fire Chief Chris Komarek said.
The added day would stretch the resources and staff of his small department. And, the current resolution restricting such displays to one day has worked well for 10 years.
“It’s a prevention issue for us,” said Claflin Fire Chief Doug Hubbard said, echoing what Komarek’s statement.
But, “it’s a holiday weekend,” said Linda Barnes of T&L Fireworks. This means there may be more people than usual in town and “this is a good way to celebrate the Fourth.”
Barnes said they order their inventory in September based in part on when July 4 falls. They also must prepay for the items.
She appreciated the gesture aimed to help them offset the losses from the ban. She also noted that some surrounding communities allow more than one day for fireworks.
As for the cities, Barnes said it is possible they could go along with the idea.
“This is a good way to express our patriotism and help the vendors,” said Commissioner Alicia Straub. But, in supporting the idea, she urged everyone to exercise caution.
Sure, there is an added risk and expense, said Commissioner Don Davis. “But this is still something that ought to be allowed.”
“People are going to shoot them off anyway,” said Barton County Sheriff Brian Bellendir. The extra day will reduced the number of fireworks-related complaints his department receives.
Chasing these calls can be a waste of time for his officers. They seldom find the violators and, if they do, seldom issue citations.
In the end, Davis and Straub voted for the measure and Schartz and Commissioner Homer Kruckenberg voted against it. Schremmer cast the tie-breaking vote in favor of the change.
Commissioners, however, stressed this was for this year only.
It was approved under a supplement to a 2004 resolution, establishing a policy on fireworks for Barton County.
In other business Monday morning, the Barton County Commission:
• Approved application for the fiscal year 2015 Emergency Management Performance Grant Program. The Kansas Division of Emergency Management is accepting applications for the program. The EMPG Program provides funding to assist states and local governments in developing and carrying out emergency management programs, said Emergency Manager Amy Miller.
This is federal money funneled through the state that the county has sought for at least 20 years, Miller said. In recent years, the amount received has been $24,000.
• Heard provided the bi-weekly departmental update from County Administrator Richard Boeckman.