At their meeting on March 3, Alliance City Council Members discussed the 10-day period for the discharge of fireworks after citizens voiced concerns.
Council Member Annora Bentley began the discussion by noting comments from several people about changing the period of time fireworks would be allowed to be discharged.
“I asked if this could be brought to council as a discussion item to see if we could maybe decide if we want to do that, if we want to have a public hearing to see what the public would like to do,” said Bentley. “I just thought it was important to respect those requests and put it on the table for discussion.”
Vice Mayor Brian Mischnick said, despite his personal wish to limit the discharge period, he would like to see it left alone.
“When I was a kid, it would have broke my heart,” Mischnick said. “So, I’m inclined to leave it as it is.”
Mayor Mike Dafney echoed Mischnick’s view. He noted changing the days would be difficult to enforce.
“I grew up with it the way it is,” said Dafney. “My kids were probably some of the worst. Another thing is, if we shorten it down, when I’m looking at the other communities, I think our people, not all of them, but a lot, are just going to go elsewhere to buy and take away revenue from some of organizations that do it to raise money.
“It’s kind of a catch-22,” Dafney said. “I’ve heard the same complaints. I went around the neighborhood and asked the people that I know are shooting them off, and I wish they weren’t, but they want it left like it is. We’re following the state guidelines, and things like that.”
Currently, fireworks may be discharged from June 25 to July 2 from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., and from 9 a.m. and midnight on July 3-4.
Bentley said she is in favor of limiting the discharge period, citing room for compromise with people who work nights, people with pets and people suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Council Members Ryan Reynolds and Earl Jones announced their agreement with Mischnick and Dafney.
“My concern if we cut them back is that people will just go outside city limits and I’m afraid they’re going to start fires,” Jones said. “I think that if they can buy them somewhere, they’ll set them off here. They can go to Scottsbluff, or Chadron, or Hemingford and buy firecrackers, they’re going to bring them back here and set them off. It’s literally unenforceable. I think we’re setting ourselves up for failure.”
Alliance Volunteer Fire Department Chief Troy Shoemaker said previous councils have discussed making changes. He shared Jones’ concern about people lighting fireworks outside of city limits.
“I’m one of those veterans who has a form of PTSD,” said Shoemaker. “So, when we do the public fireworks display, I purposely put myself at the point where they’re going to get let off so I know when it’s going to happen.
“Councilman Jones, you hit the one thing that is the most concerning thing to me, and that is pushing the fireworks out of city limits out into the county,” Shoemaker said. “Our jurisdiction, as you all know, is 865 square miles, Seven and a half of that is for the city limits. It’s easier to control something like that within the city limits.”
Shoemaker suggested not limiting the number of days, but instead posting more signage about prohibiting discharge on public property.
“The biggest place that we seem to have to congregate for fireworks discharge is Laing Lake,” said Shoemaker. “That’s a bad place on the Fourth of July to have not only the Jaycees, and that’s the best thing for the Jaycees to light their public fireworks display, but we should not allow private citizens to discharge their fireworks on city property. We’ve had, in the past, fires at Laing Lake from private citizens that caused damage on the north end.”
Council Members directed staff members to post the proper signage at Laing Lake when the discharge period approaches.