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Danielle Schmidt hands out information to Jamestown City Council members concerning fireworks issues in town. Schmidt is an advocate of reducing the number of days fireworks are allowed to be used in Jamestown. John M. Steiner/The Sun

Fireworks ordinance upheld on split vote

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Personal fireworks in Jamestown will continue without a change to the city ordinance after a motion to limit the number of days fireworks can be sold and discharged to five failed on a 2-2 vote.

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The action came during the Jamestown Finance and Legal Committee Tuesday night.

Councilman Charlie Kourajian moved to propose an ordinance to limit fireworks to July 1 through July 5 with a curfew of 11 p.m. each night except for the Fourth of July when fireworks would be allowed until 1 a.m. July 5. Councilman Steve Brubakken seconded the measure.

Mayor Katie Andersen and Councilman Dan Buchanan opposed the motion for opposite reasons. Councilman Ramone Gumke was absent.

“I still think five days is excessive,” Buchanan said. “I would have pushed hard for three days.”

Andersen said she saw no significant problems with the current ordinance. She said the nine days fireworks are allowed in Jamestown amounts to 3 percent of the year, which she didn’t see as excessive.

“This year we had no injuries reported to JRMC (Jamestown Regional Medical Center) we had no fire calls reported because of fireworks, and we had a minimal number of police calls,” Andersen said. “In all the years I’ve been mayor we’ve had no significant problems with fireworks from an injury or police calls for service.”

Andersen said the current ordinance in Jamestown helped prevent injuries.

“I think one of the reasons that we don’t have a lot of problems in the city with injuries is that we have this liberal policy on fireworks that encourages people to not do it on the side or backrooms. They do it with their families,” she said.

The discussion among the City Council took place after Danielle Schmidt, a Jamestown resident who has been active in a movement to limit fireworks, spoke on the issue.

“The city is showing up asking for change,” she said.

She asked that fireworks be limited to July 3 through July 5 ending at 11 p.m. each day except for the Fourth of July when fireworks would be allowed until 1 a.m. July 5.

“We’re not asking to ban fireworks but for a compromise,” she said.

She cited the effects fireworks have on some dogs, young children and veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

“It is a symbol of our national holiday, but nine days is excessive,” she said.

Corey Bayer, a licensed fireworks dealer, said many people enjoy different things.

“It is about diversity,” he said. “People have different things they enjoy. Every time you limit a choice you take away a freedom.”

Lucas Keller, also a licensed fireworks vendor, said he had talked to many vets that say “fireworks bring a twinkle to their eyes.”

The split vote means that an ordinance limiting fireworks dates will not move to the City Council meeting on Aug. 4. But, it might not be the end of the issue.

The public could hold a petition drive placing the item on the ballot possibly at the November general election. Such a petition would require about 1,200 signatures.

“We’re here for the compromise,” said Jamestown resident Gail Martin. “You need to be careful. You’ve been elected to act for the city. If you don’t compromise, the next petition may be to ban it completely.”

In other business, the committee tabled action on setting an affordable rent level for Jamestown. Setting affordable rent is a necessary step to participating in the Flex Pace Affordable Housing Program offered by the Bank of North Dakota.

The program provides $25,000 for each unit a developer pledges to rent at a level equal to or less than the affordable rent. Currently, Jamestown Row Homes had applied for the Flex Pace Affordable Housing Program.

Sun reporter Keith Norman can be reached at 701-952-8452 or by email at knorman@jamestownsun.com

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