WATERLOO — The city will turn into a “boomtown” in July.
Waterloo City Council members voted by the narrowest of margins Monday to approve the final reading of an ordinance allowing the use of consumer fireworks from July 3-5 each year.
The three-day window is well below the 53 days fireworks use is allowed under Iowa law but replaces an complete ban council members previously adopted in the city limits.
“If we’re responsible with our behavior, I think it’ll turn out OK,” said Councilman Steve Schmitt, who said the ban wasn’t effective in stopping people from shooting off fireworks.
Schmitt was joined by Pat Morrissey, Jerome Amos Jr. and Ray Feuss in lifting the ban on a 4-3 vote.
“This allows people three days to legally use something that is legal for them to buy and possess in our great city,” Morrissey said. “I don’t think that that’s too much to ask.”
Council members Sharon Juon, Margaret Klein and Bruce Jacobs voted against allowing fireworks.
“I believe there is more potential harm with expanding the fireworks than there are benefits,” Juon said.
Klein said she worried children and others could be maimed or killed by fireworks or that buildings might burn down due to an errant rocket.
“These things are not benign,” she said. “They are very dangerous.”
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Jacobs said it’s not possible to use fireworks responsibly given their nature.
“You’re going to shoot a hot rocket onto my roof,” he said. “What gives you the right to do that into my yard?
“If you vote for it, you own it,” he told his colleagues. “All the calls in July, you know who’s going to get them.”
A handful of residents spoke against the ordinance during the meeting, including Marcia Buttgen.
“For the safety of our community and the sanity of (post traumatic stress disorder) service men and women and even the dogs that have to be sedated or moved out into the country … during these displays, please vote no,” Buttgen said. “We’re tired of having to clean up other people’s messes and having to live through this noise for days at a time.”
Matt Reisetter, co-owner of Crossroads Fireworks, called three days “a very reasonable compromise.”
“As a business owner, obviously I’m interested in this going well,” Reisetter said. “But I’m interested in representing my customers who love this and most of whom are not … like the neighbors that create bad situations for all of us.”
Waterloo now will allow fireworks use between noon to 11 p.m. July 4 and from noon to 10 p.m. on both July 3 and July 5 each year. The fine for using fireworks outside of those times was boosted from $250 to $375 or more.
Council members also voted 6-1, with Jacobs voting no, to adopt more restrictive zoning regulations on where fireworks stores and stands can be located in the community.