Saline County Commissioners have been looking at the current firework laws, and are considering changes. Emergency Management Director Hannah Stambaugh and Planning and Zoning Director David Neal returned to the commission Tuesday with specific proposed changes to the wording of county statutes related to the sale and discharge of fireworks.
Stambaugh reported that most of the chiefs of the rural fire districts were satisfied with much of the existing code. Neal said the County has largely adopted the State’s rules that allow fireworks to be sold and discharged from June 27th through July 5th from 8:00 AM to 12:00 Midnight. The City of Salina allows fireworks to be sold from June 27th through July 4th . . . but limits the days of discharge to July 3 and 4—from 8:00 AM – 11:00 PM.
Duane Flaherty, a retired County noxious weed employee, operates a fireworks stand. He said the City of Hays currently limits the sale of fireworks to July 3rd and 4th and said they “sell half as much” as he does. Flaherty said that firework vendors in Missouri will sell certain kinds of fireworks to those with out-of-state driver’s licenses; these same fireworks can’t be sold to Missouri residents.
Speaking to the possibility of changing the number of days that fireworks can be discharged in the county, Stambaugh said that “it is hard enough to manage” the different policies of some of the rural towns and the county. She advocated looking at this from the perspective of law enforcement; if there was an increase in the number of complaints, the Sheriff’s Office does not have the personnel to follow these up.
Stambaugh said that she would work with the rural fire department chiefs to insure that one of them inspected a fire work stand that historically has been located on Avenue B, which is in RFD#4, whose fire services are provided by the Salina Fire Department. At an August 1st discussion, firework stand operator Nikole Bird said the City’s inspector used a checklist that included additional items when he inspected her stand. Flaherty added, “The City looks at every product you have to make sure it is something that can be sold all year long”.
The County has charged a $1,000 fee for those who have a fireworks stand in the County. The City charges both a $525 “application fee” and a $2,100 temporary use permit fee; if the size of the facility exceeds 1,500 square feet, the stand pays an additional $2.55 per square foot over the 1,500 square feet.
Flaherty said that if the county commission raised its fees, it “would run” other operators “back into the city; the City is where the population is”, the county’s stands operate “on the edge of town”. This year, the County had 5 firework stands and the City had 7 or 8 stands.
Stambaugh proposed that the fees the County collects be used to help fund a “countywide radio setting, with towers”. At present, the rural fire departments lack the equipment needed to operate on such a setting. Previously, the fees had been passed on to the RFDs.
Stambaugh said that she receives complaints about fireworks being discharged from the Great Life Golf Course (on Marymount) in late June, which is in the county, but is surrounded by city dwellers.
Frank Zsamba, who lives on County Club Road at Simpson Road, said he, his neighbors, horses and cattle have to deal with those coming from the city to shoot fireworks and to hunt on county roads. He spoke of the difference between the sparklers and cherry bombs he could purchase in his youth compared to the options available now. He said the roads around his property are “busy all night”, beginning on June 27th. When he calls the Sheriff’s Office, he is told there are 4 deputies on patrol; if they are working an accident, it may take them an hour to respond. If fireworks happen to cause a fire, the city dwellers get in the car and leave it to the homeowners to deal with the fire. To help keep his animals safe, he pens them. He said, “Now, the noise is terrible. Money is the big thing” that drives policy. He spoke of the inconvenience to people who have to go to work the next day, despite the disruptions from the night(s) before.
Vidricksen said that most of the comments he’s received from residents have dealt with differences in the hours of discharge (11:00 PM for the City and 12:00 Midnight for the County).
As a related issue is the discharge of fireworks by special permit, during other times of the year, Weese said he liked proposed new language that would allow the City (either commission or administration) input on any displays that might be launched within proximity of the City. Stambaugh agreed that it is a “better practice to work with the City”. The discussion also centered on “consumer grade” v “professional grade” fireworks used at these functions.
Later, Stambaugh said the Commission is seeking input from citizens on what changes to make with the fireworks regulations. City residents also are county residents, so their input is also relevant. The code, with draft changes, can be found at www.saline.org, under 8/22/2017’s agenda; the website also gives the phone numbers and e-mail addresses of each commissioner.