WATERLOO — A plan to snuff out fireworks use in Waterloo has won initial approval.

But action may have come too late to keep the skies from lighting up through the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.

City Council members voted 4-3 Monday to approve the first reading of an ordinance banning the use of consumer fireworks in the city limits and restricting their sale to industrial zoning districts.

Councilmen Ron Welper, Bruce Jacobs, Tom Powers and Pat Morrissey voted in favor of the fireworks ban, while Tom Lind, Steve Schmitt and Jerome Amos Jr. voted against it.

The ordinance also must be approved at both the Dec. 11 and Dec. 18 council meetings and go through a legal publication process before it can be enforced, making it unlikely the restrictions would apply for any of the pending window allowed by state law.

The Iowa Legislature earlier this year lifted an 80-year ban on consumer fireworks and allowed them to be shot off from June 1 through July 8 and again from Dec. 10 through Jan. 3.

Cities can adopt shorter usage windows or ban them entirely like Cedar Rapids, Dubuque, Ames, Iowa CIty and Cedar Falls.

Waterloo allowed fireworks to be used during a five-day period around the last Fourth of July holiday, leading to numerous complaints that encouraged council members to support a future ban.

“A few people enjoyed it but the mass did not appreciate it,” Jacobs said.

But Schmitt said he thought a complete ban was too harsh given many other states and a bipartisan effort by state lawmakers allowed their use.

“It just seems to me we went from one overreaction to another overreaction,” said Schmitt, who said he preferred to allow a few hours of fireworks on New Year’s Eve and leaving a decision on June and July rules to a new council to be seated in January.

Morrissey led the push to restrict sales to industrial zones and require fireworks retailers to post signs at their businesses informing customers about Waterloo’s usage ban.

He objected to leaving the decision up to the next City Council, which will include three new members, but noted the council is free to change the ordinance at anytime in the future.

“I believe that we have a responsibility to the people of Waterloo to do our job rather than to put it on some new council people that are coming on,” Morrissey said.

There were few public comments before the council’s vote, but Police Chief Dan Trelka was not a fan of the proposed ban.

“I believe from the police department’s perspective a complete ban would be a nightmare for us and difficult for us to enforce,” Trelka said.

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Waterloo City Reporter

Waterloo city reporter for the Courier

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