WATERLOO — Policymakers are voicing surprise at how quiet the debate over lifting Waterloo’s fireworks ban has been.
City Council members voted 4-3 Monday to approve the second reading of an ordinance that would end the current ban on the use of consumer fireworks and allow them to be shot off in the city limits from July 3-5 each year.
But at least two council members pleaded for more public input before the final vote next week, noting it could make a difference.
“The only people that have contacted me personally have been against fireworks,” said Councilwoman Sharon Juon, suggesting more input from the other side could change her mind.
While Councilman Ray Feuss said he’s heard from constituents on both sides of the issue, the response has not been overwhelming.
“If you are passionate one way or the other, let us know,” he said. “This is a great opportunity for our citizens to be engaged.”
Feuss was joined by Councilmen Steve Schmitt, Jerome Amos Jr. and Pat Morrissey in voting to allow three days.
“The three-day window, I believe, currently gives us the best option at compromise,” Feuss said.
Juon was joined by Margaret Klein and Bruce Jacobs in voting to keep the ban.
“I think right now with the snow falling, people just aren’t thinking about this,” Klein said. “But look out come July. Our phones are going to ring off the hook, and we’ll have people down here asking how this happened.”
State law allows fireworks to be sold and used from June 1 through July 8 and again from Dec. 10 through Jan. 3. Most cities have adopted shorter usage windows or banned them altogether.
Among larger cities, Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, Dubuque, Iowa City and Cedar Falls have complete bans, while Davenport, Sioux City, Council Bluffs and Ankeny allow some days for their use.
Only a handful of residents have addressed the issue during Waterloo council meetings.
Myke Goings, who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder exacerbated by the noise of fireworks, reiterated his request to keep the ban or at least limit the usage to one day, July 4.
“Fireworks aren’t a disruption like a salesman calling during supper time,” he said. “It’s our mental and physical health and well-being involved.”
Justin Bartlett, a partner in Crossroads Fireworks, said he believed the three-day window is a good compromise that will keep illegal fireworks from being used more frequently on other days.
“We believe and hope that allowing a few days will actually do a better job of containing those very real issues,” he said.
Morrissey noted the proposed ordinance also boosts the fine for illegal fireworks use from $250 to $375, a move to discourage illegal use outside the three-day window.
Klein scoffed at the notion a fine would stop illegal use, saying Waterloo has only issued one ticket for the violation over the past two years.
“This raising of fines, that is such a joke,” she said. “We should just make the fine a million dollars because we really have no intention of ever collecting any.”
Council members also voted 6-1 to approve the second reading of a zoning ordinance putting more restrictions on where fireworks can be sold in the city. Jacobs voted against it.