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Fireworks spark more discussion in Grandview

GRANDVIEW - Possible solutions ranging from a $10 permit to utilizing school grounds all had a hearing Tuesday, as Grandview continues to wrestle with how to have safe - and sane - July 4 fireworks.

A fireworks community task force met Tuesday to firm up its proposal to Grandview's City Council on Sept. 6.

The task force was appointed following July 4 fireworks this year which saw traffic disruptions and, according to Police Chief David Charvet, "...noticeable cloud formations due to the excessive amount of smoke that was created by the discharge of these fireworks."

Fireworks resulted in 30 related police calls on July 4.

Despite calls to ban July 4 fireworks altogether, the task force agreed to allow them during a meeting on Aug. 16.

On Tuesday night, Aug. 30, the task force fine-tuned its recommendations, which include combined police and fire emphasis patrols.

Fire Chief Charles Damron reminded task force members that Grandview's department is all-volunteer. "If they're required to be patrolling the streets on July 4 instead of being with their families then they'll probably just stay home," Damron said. He quickly added that firefighters would be on hand in event of fire emergencies.

Assistant Police Chief Armando Martinez told the task force he had only two extra officers available for overtime on July 4 to patrol.

Martinez confirmed that police seize illegal fireworks but do not have legal grounds to confiscate legal fireworks from children, as suggested in one of the task force's recommendations. Martinez noted it can be difficult to locate illegal fireworks since those setting them off simply wait until a police cruiser is out of sight.

"What about bicycle patrols?" task force chair and city councilwoman Helen Darr asked. "That way you would be able to sneak up on people."

Martinez agreed the patrols could be a possibility but that writing citations would be difficult, given the additional amount of time required for the few officers available.

"We'll do what we can but don't expect a miracle," added Detective Sergeant Mark Ware.

Proposed revisions to existing city code call for delaying the sale of fireworks by one day, from July 1 to July 2. Fireworks would only be sold until 10 p.m. and could only be fired until midnight on July 4, according to the proposal.

The task force scratched a recommendation Tuesday forbidding the discharge of fireworks in any public place or street.

"People set them in the streets because the houses are so close together," task force member Nicole DeLeon said.

That led to further discussions on encouraging large public places where the community could gather to set off fireworks away from homes.

School parking lots were one idea, though Damron observed, "You'd also be lighting fireworks next to a $5 million building."

Another possible revision to city code was discussed in opening more city parks for fireworks. Currently, Country Park is Grandview's only public park open to setting fireworks.

Parks and Recreation Director Mike Carpenter said Country is large enough for public fireworks gatherings now but, depending on demand, could be outgrown in two years. He also cited possible damage to the park's lawn and garbage as potential concerns.

One constant that task force members came back to was education, even to the point of suggesting fireworks dealers be required to provide safety flyers with each purchase.

The other was passing on Grandview's additional costs related to July 4 fireworks.

A one time permit fee of $10 for purchasing fireworks was discussed to help defray enforcement expenses. The task force also discussed increasing fines related to the illegal discharge of fireworks.

"Why not increase the fine to $1,000?" asked Chuck Hultberg, one of seven Grandview citizens on the task force.

"Hit them in the pocketbook, by Jove, then they'll pay attention," enthused task force member Judith Lee.

While increased fines and the $10 fee weren't written into the task force's recommendations, Darr expressed support for the fee, at least, to be instituted for July 4, 2006.

The task force's recommendations now move to the Grandview City Council, where a status update will be provided during the Sept. 6 meeting.

Copies of the task force's findings and minutes from their meetings are available by contacting Grandview City Hall at 207 W. Second Street or by calling 882-9200.

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