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Citizens Support Fireworks Ban

Council may vote on issue in March

The tide may have turned when it comes to setting up a complete ban on discharging fireworks within the city limits of Bingen.

With a group of citizens expressing backing for a ban, members of the Bingen City Council agreed to reconsider an ordinance that could keep the display of fireworks outside the city.

In September 2003, the Bingen City Council rejected an outright fireworks prohibition on a 3-2 vote. This time around, however, the show of public support for a ban could swing the council's vote.

At the Feb. 1 council meeting, a total of eight Bingen citizens said they wanted fireworks outlawed due to fire danger and the threat of property damage or children being injured. In addition, three letters from Bingen residents were read into the record, all of which supported the restrictions.

No one spoke in opposition to the prohibition.

"I'd like to see them banned from the city, but keep an area where people can go to," said one resident during the council meeting.

"Fireworks are a fire danger. They are annoyingly loud, and they upset my dogs and other people's pets," explained Gloria Hayes in a letter to the council. "The fireworks should be left to professionals."

"We wish to convey our opinion that fireworks discharge within the Bingen city limits has long since passed into the realm of anachronism," read an excerpt of a letter from residents Charles and Carlie Escher.

One Bingen resident, Roy Barnes, made his point by showing the council members a box of fireworks devices he found on his property on the Fourth of July last year.

"The reason for government is protection of people and property," explained Barnes. "Having burning rockets on the roof of my house, shed, car, and wood pile is really too much to ask. Please do something about this. It's really upsetting to me."

John Newman, a former member of the Bingen City Council, was among those who spoke in favor of forbidding fireworks in the city.

"It's an ordinance that's been 50 years too late in my opinion," Newman said. "I have a personal experience of a bottle rocket landing in my field on a windy day in August."

Newman added that a ban was a common sense measure, given the windy and dry conditions prevalent in the region in the summers.

"It's an actual disaster waiting to happen," he said.

None of the four council members present opposed at least considering an ordinance that would outlaw the discharge of fireworks within the city.

One of those who voted against a fireworks ban when it came up for consideration last time indicated he was willing to reconsider his stance.

"It sounds like what the public wants, so we should pursue it," said council member Randy Anderson.

Laura Mann, one of the original backers of the ban, said her vote had not changed.

"I voted last time for a complete ban, and I'll vote again for it," Mann said. "The council members who voted against it heard the community, and will probably change their minds."

Mann added that she did not consider forbidding fireworks an extreme move.

"I think many communities around the country don't allow fireworks, and people understand the reasons for that, for protection of property and safety for children," she explained.

Bingen Mayor Brian Prigel pointed out, however, that even if the council were to approve a ban, it would not be in effect until 2006.

"Any ordinance to restrict fireworks doesn't take effect for a full year," he said.

Bingen City Clerk Jan Brending said she did not believe enforcement of a total prohibition would be difficult.

"The police wouldn't have to try to figure out if the fireworks are legal or illegal. There would be no fireworks, period," Brending explained. "Anyone shooting them off, they can be confiscated."

Prigel said the previously defeated ordinance from 2003 would be a "starting point" for the new proposal.

A public hearing on the proposed ordinance will come in March.

"We'll probably bring back the draft ordinance from a year or so ago, and act on it before July 4 so it would be in effect for 2006," Prigel said. "We will consider a full ban at an upcoming meeting."

Prigel added that he expects the Port site at Bingen Point to remain open for the public.

After the meeting, Prigel said he wasn't surprised at the lack of opposition to a ban.

"I think people opposed to a ban won't speak until after it happens," Prigel said.

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