Thomas M. Hutton, Gardner, addressed the Gardner City Council March 19 about how fireworks negatively affects those with PTSD, autism and other disabilities. The council later approved three days for the discharge of fireworks. Staff photo by Rick Poppitz
Special to The Gardner News
The Gardner council met March 19 and considered recommendation from the Citizens Police Advisory Committee on dates and times when the discharge of fireworks will be allowed within the City of Gardner for the 2018 July 4th holiday; eventually settling on three days.
Jim Pruetting, police chief, presented the committee recommendation. Firework discussion did not appear as an agenda item on the police committee’s agenda, and draft minutes had not been posted as of March 19.
The original staff recommendation was for June 30, July 3 and July 4, from 10 a.m. – 11 p.m. each day. Sunday, July 1 was not originally proposed by staff but was added to the recommendation by the committee. July 1 would also have different hours, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m..
Four citizens spoke regarding fireworks during public comments.
Jennifer Smith, lifelong resident, has addressed council in the past about fireworks.
“Some of you were here two years ago when I spoke on the matter of all citizens of Gardner, not just the citizens that wanted to shoot off the fireworks, but the citizens that have disabilities, have sensory issues, the elderly and our veterans,” she said.
She suggested stricter guidelines and implementing an education program to help people understand where and when it’s legal to shoot fireworks.
She thanked the police department for doing what they could do and thanked city staff for cleaning up the mess afterwards.
Thomas Hutton, VFW member and lifelong resident, was not happy council was considering additional days for fireworks.
“It just upsets me to the maximum. Me, like a lot of other guys in town, I got PTSD. I’ve been made fun of and I don’t appreciate that.”
Hutton said last year it was “open season” with people shooting “mortars” anyplace where there was an open space of concrete to launch from. He said people found debris on homes and vehicles.
He said if the city made any money from fireworks sales it would be spent in staff salary for clean up, police and fire services.
“You can’t leave your house because if you do, who knows what might happen – you can’t just walk off and leave it, might come back to ashes,” said Hutton.
He asked if any council members had anything to gain by extending the fireworks season.
Smith and Hutton spoke during a general public comment period prior to the item coming up on the agenda. Two more citizens spoke after the staff presentation of the agenda item.
Heath Freeman, resident and planning commission member, came forward to suggest the city adjust the dates permanently to two days, July 3 and 4.
He said consistency of the dates from year to year would reduce confusion about legal dates and times that now change from year to year.
He cited a social media discussion where he said 34 people supported the two day period and 24 wanted more than that.
Freeman said a polarizing issue is an opportunity for a common sense compromise.
“When you’ve got a lot of folks that would like to do it for a week or more versus a set of folks who wouldn’t like to have it at all, I think 2 days is that compromise,” said Freeman.
Clint Barney, resident and utility advisory board member, said he had served 8 years and understood PTSD was a valid concern that shouldn’t be overlooked.
Barney agreed consistency of dates was important and suggested that the period be four days, July 1 through 4.
In council discussion, Pruetting reviewed some of the most common complaints, one of which was people shooting fireworks off on public streets, which is not legal.
“We’re going to make a video this year to educate people on what’s allowed because I think a lot of people don’t know you can’t shoot them in the street,” he said.
Pruetting said the police department was going to be more diligent in educating people about what is and isn’t allowed.
Randy Gregorcyk, council member, asked about regulating the size of fireworks that could be sold. General consensus seemed to be that regulation should be left to the state.
He asked Laura Gourley, finance director, how much sales tax revenue the city had collected on fireworks sales. Gourley said it was $4,197.04 in 2016 and $6,243.17 in 2017.
Gregorcyk said he was firm on setting a two day period and no more. Todd Winters, council member, also favored a two day period.
Steve Shute, mayor, did not have a vote in this matter but did comment that he favored rolling it back to two days.
Mark Baldwin, council member, made a motion to set the dates for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, July 1, 2 and 3.
Rich Melton, council vice president and Lee Moore, council president, voted with Baldwin in favor of the motion, resulting in a 3-2 vote to adopt Resolution No. 1985, establishing the 2018 dates for fireworks discharge as 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on July 2, and 10 a.m. – 11 p.m. on July 3 and July 4.