• warning: Parameter 2 to ed_classified_link_alter() expected to be a reference, value given in /home/soloneconomist/www/www/includes/common.inc on line 2968.
  • warning: Parameter 2 to ed_classified_link_alter() expected to be a reference, value given in /home/soloneconomist/www/www/includes/common.inc on line 2968.

Fireworks OK in Tiffin, for now

TIFFIN– It’s too late for Tiffin.
When Governor Terry Branstad signed the fireworks bill into law last month– allowing their sale and use for the first time since the 1930s– he and the state legislature didn’t give local governments enough time to react, said Tiffin City Administrator Doug Boldt.
“That’s something a lot of people aren’t happy about, that this is coming so late,” he said during a Tiffin City Council work session Tuesday, June 6.
He explained how difficult it was for cities without fireworks ordinances to get one in place before the first legal period to use and sell them began June 1 statewide.
“I’m not aware of any municipalities– unless there are those that jumped on this right away and the timing of their meetings were just perfect– that had an opportunity to have all three readings,” he added. “There wasn’t time.”
Senate File 489, championed largely by Republicans, adds Iowa to the list of 43 other states that have already legalized consumer fireworks, allowing Iowans to purchase and set off firecrackers, bottle rockets and more to celebrate Independence Day and New Year’s. According to the bill stipulations, cities cannot veto sales but can ban or restrict the use of fireworks.
“It isn’t going to make any difference anyway,” argued council member Jim Bartels. “They’re going to shoot them off.”
Fellow council member Al Havens agreed. “We’ve gone how many years without an ordinance and they’ve been doing it,” he said.
“It’s been illegal,” Boldt interjected.
“But they’ve been doing it,” Havens countered.
Tiffin’s current code of ordinances does in fact ban fireworks sales and use, contrary to Havens’ comment. But Boldt said it has not really been enforced.
“We’ll continue to have this ordinance that we don’t enforce,” he said, noting a primary reason for that is the lack of a municipal police department. “If there’s a neighbor or neighborhoods shooting off fireworks, by the time they’d call Johnson County around the Fourth of July and they’d dispatch somebody to come out there, whether or not the deputy decided it was worth their while or not, they could be done,” he explained.
Tiffin’s amateur pyrotechnicians won’t have to go far to buy their goods either. As of Monday, June 12, the State Fire Marshal had received several applications for a Consumer Fireworks Retail Seller license in Johnson County and four had been approved– including Costco in Coralville.
Council member Peggy Upton noted up until this point Tiffin residents have mostly used bottle rockets and firecrackers.
“Now we’re going to have everything,” she said. “We probably should have some sort of ordinance.”
While other council members agreed, Boldt noted three readings of a new ordinance would be required at the next regular city council meeting, June 20, to re-ban the use of fireworks before the Fourth of July or rework the code to align with state law regarding sales.
“I feel a little funny rushing through a fireworks ordinance just so people can set of firecrackers on the Fourth,” said council member Mike Ryan. “If you’re going to go through the process of writing an ordinance, you don’t want to have to do it in five minutes.”
“By the same token, if we have nothing in place, people will just do whatever they want,” responded Upton.
She and council member Joann Kahler were mostly concerned with the use of fireworks by minors, since the bill doesn’t specify an age limit– aside from disallowing purchases by anyone 17 or younger.
But Kahler said she wouldn’t like the Johnson County Sherriff’s Department policing the use of fireworks, especially by kids and teenagers.
“Parents should be responsible,” she said.
As of now, fireworks remain banned in North Liberty, Coralville and Iowa City, while Cedar Rapids will comply with the state rules.
Ryan said although he is in favor of allowing the use of fireworks, there should be noise requirements.
According to Tiffin’s code of ordinances, maximum noise standards in residential zones is 60 decibels, while 70 decibels is allowed in public spaces. Fireworks can emit 120-175 decibels, depending on how close one is to the bang.
“I don’t want to be a stick in the mud, but I want to have noise respect for people’s right to not have a lot of noise,” said Ryan.
Although Havens initially expressed a desire to ban fireworks, council members did pass a resolution to hold a public hearing June 20 and make a decision based on resident feedback.
“My hope is that it’s not one of those things where nobody shows up,” said Boldt. He said city hall has received a few calls regarding fireworks but that he would like community members to voice their opinion in front of the council.
Nonetheless, Tiffinites will– most likely– be unofficially allowed to shoot off commercial fireworks come the Fourth of July, even though city code says otherwise. According to state law, fireworks can be set off 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. through July 8, as well as an extra hour on the evenings of July 1-2, July 4, and July 8-9.
“I guess, you know, our citizens have the right to blow their hands off as much as the citizens in another state,” Ryan said.