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Ellis Co. to make fireworks decision

6/16/2013

By RANDY GONZALES

Son of the late George Hendrickson

In their May 20 meeting, Ellis County commissioners, by a 2-1 vote, passed a resolution to allow the sale of fireworks in rural areas of Ellis County during the Fourth of July holiday period.

Commissioners also delegated to Ellis County Rural Fire Chief Dick Klaus the authority of whether to allow the discharge of fireworks in rural areas of the county during the same period. If conditions were too dry to allow the discharge of fireworks at that time, Klaus was to come up with an alternate date.

However, Klaus said Friday he did not plan to make a decision on the discharge of fireworks during the Fourth of July holiday. He said having to provide an alternate date was problematic, because it also might not be an appropriate time if dry conditions persist in the county.

By not making a decision, it was Klaus' understanding the default position is to not allow fireworks to be discharged.

"As of right now, there's no date we're going to allow them," Klaus said.

Ellis County Administrator Greg Sund said Friday he consulted Ellis County Counselor Bill Jeter, who recommended a decision be made by county officials. Sund put on the agenda for Monday's regular meeting of the commissioners a resolution addressing the sale and discharge of fireworks in rural areas of Ellis County during the upcoming holiday.

The resolution, which passed in June 2012, states, in part, that "on or before the middle of June of each year, the Ellis County Commission is to make a determination of whether it is permissible to discharge Class C fireworks during the 4th of July holiday period in the rural areas of Ellis County." Sund said based on last year's resolution, a decision is required this year.

Klaus and Ellis County Emergency Management Director Bill Ring both have safety concerns about the discharge of fireworks during the Fourth of July.

"Do we want a multitude of people out there, get in a stubble field, and it burns somebody's farm down?" Ring said.

The city of Hays banned the sale and use of fireworks by a 3-2 vote in the May 23 meeting of city commissioners. The Ellis city council, by a 5-0 vote, also banned the sale and discharge of fireworks in a special meeting Friday. The city of Victoria will consider the issue in its regular 5:30 p.m. meeting Monday at city hall.

"The recent hot weather, and fires going on in the area, and looks like it will be hot again -- no light at the end of the tunnel," said Ellis Mayor Lyle Johnston of the council's rationale for the ban.