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Fireworks still a no-go for Hays

6/20/2014

By MATTHEW KENWRIGHT

mkenwright@dailynews.net

Despite pleas from two firework vendors and a Hays citizen, the Hays City Commission will not pursue a repeal of the fireworks ban.

With Commissioner Kent Steward absent, the decision at the work session was supported by three of the four commissioners. Commissioner Shaun Musil advocated for temporarily allowing fireworks because of the recent rainfall. Although he acknowledged people have valid concerns about fireworks' possible mess and their effect on pets, Musil said fireworks would be a reward.

"The community has done a great job of conserving water, and this would have been a nice thing just to say let's celebrate for that weekend of the Fourth of July," he said.

Commissioner Ron Mellick expressed concerns about burning property. He disputed the talk on social media the commissioners are too old to appreciate fireworks by reaching under the table and showing the room a bundle of fireworks he has had since fireworks were banned a few years ago.

"I do like fireworks, and so I am not against the fireworks per se," he said. "I may be old, that may be true. I still can remember what it was like when I used to shoot them off as a kid and when I used to shoot them off a few years ago."

Vice Mayor Eber Phelps said firework users might misunderstand the reach of city limits and shoot fireworks in Ellis County, where they also are banned.

Daniel Thyfault, Hill City, and Roy M. Herman, Hays, attended as representatives of Taz's Fireworks.

Thyfault said the recent rain has improved the dry conditions.

"I think we know the Lord did his job, so now it's kind of up to you guys to see what you guys have to think about this whole thing," Thyfault said.

Herman said the issue was not about money to the men. He spoke about the memories surrounding cooking out and spending time with family, and he said fireworks can improve the experience.

"I think everybody's chomping at the bit, I know that much. Not just myself," Herman said. "Many people enjoy Independence Day and like to celebrate it."

Dustin Schlaefli, Hays, said he was attending as a citizen. Schlaefli questioned the rationale behind the ban following the rain.

"In reading the city staff report, it is apparent that they agree the fire risk is lessened," he said. "So I guess my question is: If there is a less risk of fire, why can't we lift the ban on the fireworks?"

In other business:

* Bernie Kitten, Hays director of utilities, said he measured more than 6-inches of rain. It "moderately helped," he said, but staff needs at least a week to decide if the water warning should be downgraded to a water watch.

* Nicholas Willis, Hays assistant director of utilities, presented a plan to replace the water plant boiler. The $37,700 project would remove the 36-year-old appliance and replace it with two boilers and install two new gate valves.

* I.D. Creech, Hays director of public works, updated commissioners on the plan to renovate Hays Regional Airport. The city's share for the construction, inspection and incidentals would be $466,552 after the federal government compensates it $920,133. Work would include updating the HVAC system and expanding the secure holding area.

* A new commercial insurance policy was presented. It still would be covered under BRIT Insurance, but crime and equipment breakdown coverage would go through Hanover Insurance Co. The step would save the city 3.5 percent in premiums.

* Commissioners heard about a proposed contract with the Service Employees International Union. The terms would give employees a 2-percent bonus for the duration of 2015.