Fireworks ordinance implodes after vote

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Cassville must reintroduce plan to allow fireworks in city limits

A rare and somewhat confusing issue arose at the Cassville City Council meeting in January, as an ordinance change that seemingly passed by a 2-1 vote turned out to have failed.

Being considered was an ordinance that would allow fireworks to be shot inside the city limits of Cassville from July 1-4 between certain hours and with some restrictions. By a roll call vote, council members Jon Horner and Cindy Carr voted in favor of the change, and Jerry Marple voted against it. Alderman Mike Vining was not present at the meeting.

Following the meeting, city officials assumed the ordinance had passed, but the next morning, it was discovered that per state statute regarding ordinance passage, the vote was, in fact, a failure.

Ramona Huckstop, policy and membership associate with the Missouri Municipal League, said although the council did have a quorum, a 2-1 vote does not constitute a majority for a four-member council.

“If that fourth person was there, he or she could have voted against it, which would have led to a 2-2 tie and allowing the mayor to casting a tie-breaking vote,” Huckstop said. “However, because it was not a tie, the mayor could not vote. That may only happen in the case of a tie.”

Marple said he thought the vote had passed, then was later informed it had not. He said his reasoning for casting a nay vote was what he thought his constituents would want.

“It’s my opinion that people in the city would not want fireworks to be allowed for four days,” he said. “I think one day [on July 4] would be enough. Years ago, people could shoot off fireworks as much as they wanted, and at some point in time the city council changed the law. But I don’t feel people would want it to be allowed for four days.”

The proposed ordinance would allow for fireworks to be shot lawfully from noon to 10 p.m. July 1-3, and 10 a.m. to 11:59 p.m. on July 4. Restrictions include no fireworks being discharged within 100 feet of a hospital or nursing home facility, or if a burn ban is active. Roaring River Health and Rehab, which hosts an annual fireworks show, would not be affected by the ordinance, as it is carved out of city limits.

Horner said he proposed the change after being approached by about 10 people in each of the last two years inquiring about making it legal.

“We authorize the sale of fireworks here in the city and encourage people to buy them, but we do not allow people to use them in the city, so there’s a bit of inconsistency there,” he said. “They are still being shot anyway, and that creates a problem for police. They usually only give warnings, unless people are being excessive or disrespectful, so most are not cited. I don’t think it’s a detriment to the quality of life in the city to allow fireworks on those days during those hours because it’s an American thing to shoot off fireworks for Independence Day.”

Horner also said many other local cities allow fireworks in the city limits, and the change would bring Cassville in line with them.

Carr said her vote hinged mainly on the fact sales are allowed in the city.

“We sell fireworks, but we don’t let people shoot them, so to me it makes sense to make a change,” she said. “And it’s not all year, just for those four days in July. I think it’s great for the kids to be able to celebrate the Fourth of July, and it’s not fair to sell them but make people go outside the city to use them.”

Vining said he will attend the February City Council meeting and is considering the ordinance.

“I talked to Jerry and Jon, and my only concern is with the 4th being on a weekday 90 percent of the time, midnight may be a little late,” he said. “I have no problem with people celebrating the 4th, and I think a couple hours is enough time to do it and not keep people up who need to work the next day.”

Horner said after his talk with Vining, he agreed midnight may be too late, so when the ordinance is reintroduced in February, it will have an 11 p.m. deadline on July 4 instead of midnight.

Dana Kammerlohr, Cassville police chief, said she is not for or against the change, but is prepared to adhere to the council’s decision.

“There is a safety aspect, like if fireworks are shot, land on a house and catch it on fire,” she said. “That doesn’t happen often, but it is a concern. It would also ease up the burden on officers trying to track down where fireworks came from. It’s not as easy as you’d think, because you may get to a set of streets it was reported from but can’t find exactly where they came from.

“I have no opinion on the ordinance, and it’s whatever the council decides to do.”

Horner said he’s looking to reintroduce the ordinance in February, and Marple said he plans to do further research before casting another vote.

“I haven’t thought about how I will vote if it comes up again, and I’m sure it will,” Marple said. “I’m thinking of taking an unofficial poll to see what people on the north side of town [in my ward] think, and I will make a decision when it comes to it.”

Horner and Carr plan to vote in favor of the ordinance should it arise again.

“I would be willing to cut it down to two days if it would help it pass, but I don’t think four days is bad,” Carr said.

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