Fireworks are now legal in Arkansas City.
The City Commission of Arkansas City voted 5-0 on Tuesday night to approve an ordinance modifying municipal code to allow the sale and discharge of fireworks within city limits, as well as a resolution setting a fireworks sales facility permit fee.
The measures take effect immediately, meaning fireworks vendors will be able to set up shop in time for this year’s July 4 celebrations. Fireworks usage would be permitted only from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. July 1-3 and from 10 a.m. to midnight July 4.
“This is, in some people’s minds, a quantum leap from what we’ve done in this city, and it has happened quickly,” Commissioner Jean Snell admitted after the vote.
“But the people who have worked on it, it appears to me, have done a wonderful job. Hopefully, there will be few problems with it, but we can amend it next year.”
“It’s a really well-written ordinance,” said Fire-EMS Chief Bobby Wolfe, who complimented City Attorney Tamara Niles for her work on the new law.
He showed the commission of a copy of a work book that will be handed out to prospective vendors to help them to understand better the Uniform Fire Code that will govern the setup and maintenance of their selling facilities.
The work book is modeled on one developed by the City of Salina that also has been adopted word-for-word by Topeka, Wolfe said.
He said he and Lt. Chet Ranzau would be responsible for conduction inspections, and also patrolling vendors after they set up to ensure safety and compliance.
“My big concern is safely shooting off fireworks,” Wolfe said, adding that both fire and police personnel will be vigilant in ensuring people don’t “do dumb things.”
The Cowley County Commission plans to mirror the city’s new fee schedule, according to City Manager Nick Hernandez, but it cannot do so until 2014 because the permitting process for fireworks vendors already has begun for this summer.
“They see the merit in it,” he said of the county’s raising its fees to match the city’s.
The city’s fees are less than what Augusta, El Dorado and Wellington require — a $5,000 flat fee per stand — but more than what is charged south of the border on Native American territory. Fireworks stands do not have to pay permit fees there.
“This mirrors what Salina does,” Hernandez said of the temporary use permit fee.
“It’s a good balance for a smaller stand, with not so much money up front.”
Hernandez predicted the new law’s large insurance requirement would lead to “big fireworks dealers” contracting with local nonprofit organizations to man a fireworks stand. The cost of a stand might be more than some organizations can afford alone.
A facility of 500 square feet or less carries a base permit fee of $2,500, increasing by $2 per square foot for any additional area above 500 square feet, up to a maximum fee of $5,000.
The nonprofits likely would be paid a flat fee, he said, while the dealer would be responsible for permitting, insurance and other requirements, but still turn a profit.
“I know individuals in small towns who do this once a year, and this is all they do,” Hernandez told commissioners.
The ordinance requires any outside entity to work through a local nonprofit organization, Hernandez said, which should ensure some of the profits stay home.
City officials on several occasions admitted there could be some unforeseen issues once the new law is in place, but allowed that they can revisit the ordinance next year and fix any problems that might arise. This year is something of a “dry run.”
“Hopefully, this will keep a lot of people at their homes, instead of going into the country and starting fires,” said Mayor Jay Warren.