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Local

Councilman Stonner explains his flip on fireworks

City council nears end of fireworks discussion, Mullan remains opposed

The Newton City Council has moved a new ordinance for fireworks use within the city limits another step forward. Under the new ordinance, fire works would be for three hours July 4, which would coincide with the city’s pyrotechnics display and not be allowed New Year’s Eve. The third and final reading will take place at the April 1 council meeting.
The Newton City Council has moved a new ordinance for fireworks use within the city limits another step forward. Under the new ordinance, fire works would be for three hours July 4, which would coincide with the city’s pyrotechnics display and not be allowed New Year’s Eve. The third and final reading will take place at the April 1 council meeting.

Of the two Newton City Council members who voted for a proposed fireworks ban, which failed to pass in its final consideration in December 2018, one has decided to change his stance while the other remains opposed to the proposed fireworks compromise.

Council member Dean Stonner publicly addressed his shift in vote during Monday night’s city council meeting. After council adjourned, Steve Mullan explained to the Newton Daily News why his position had not wavered. Over the course of the initial fireworks ban, Stonner said two-thirds of the people who contacted him were in favor of the city’s request.

“Consequently, I voted in favor of it,” Stonner said. “A vote against this (current fireworks ordinance) amendment is a vote for the status quo, which is a total of 30 and one-half hours over two different holidays and no restrictions on the size of the fireworks.”

Stonner added a vote in favor of the current fireworks restrictions is “the next best thing” for constituents who had reached out to him about the December proceedings. Mullan said he’d like to think he is representing “a large number of people in the community who are against fireworks.”

“The vast majority of people that ever contacted me didn’t want anything to do with fireworks,” Mullan said. “I wanted to be consistent, and I wanted to be a spokesperson for those people who are against them.”

With Mullan as the lone dissenting voice, the Newton City Council voted 5-1 to approve the second consideration of the renewed fireworks ordinance limiting usage for three hours on July 4, which would coincide with the city’s pyrotechnics display.

The proposed compromise would also prohibit use on New Year’s Eve and restrict the size of fireworks residents could discharge on their own property to 1-inch diameter shells and multiple tube fireworks with 250 grams or less of powder. Fireworks will also be prohibited if a burn ban is administered by the state fire marshal.

City council members Stonner and Mullan voted in favor of the ban for all three readings when first introduced a few months ago. The proposal to outright ban fireworks usage within city limits on the Fourth of July garnered heavy criticism from locals and sparked a month-long debate inside the council chambers.

The first and second consideration of the fireworks ban resulted in a 4-2 vote in favor of the ban, with council members Mark Hallam and Craig Trotter strongly opposed; Hallam and Trotter cited a majority of their constituents wanted fireworks to be allowed within city limits.

Near the end of the process, council members Evelyn George and Lin Chapé swung their votes during the third consideration, resulting in a 4-2 vote against the ban. By changing their votes, the councilwomen did so with the assurance that the issue would be revisited at a later date or a compromise would be established.

After Stonner addressed the council and the public about his explanation, Hallam said it is important to note the restrictions beset by the new fireworks proposal, which still requires a third reading before it is adopted by the city.

Months ago, Newton fire and law enforcement officials argued a ban was necessary “in order to enhance the health and safety of residents, reduce incidents of property damage and to mitigate noise issues.” Hallam pointed out the smaller shell sizes will “make it much less likely that anything will leave a person’s property” and better contain debris.

Unlike the December fireworks ban debate, very little discussion has surrounded the proposed restrictions or conjured vocal opposition from residents in the council chambers.

The Newton City Council will read and act upon the final consideration of the fireworks ordinance restrictions during its April 1 meeting.

In other action Monday, the city council:

• Adopted an ordinance restricting street parking along the east side of the 600 block of East Seventh-and-a-half Street North. According to city council documents, the Traffic Safety Committee received concerns of the street in question and sent out 11 surveys to adjacent property owners. Four surveys were returned. Three property owners were in favor of the restrictions while one was opposed to the city’s recommended changes.

• Approved the purchase and up-fit services for two 2019 Ford Police Interceptor SUVs for the Newton Police Department. Purchased from the Waukee-based Stivers Ford for $62,000, the vehicles will replace the two 2015 models “that have exceeded their functional life for patrol purposes,” according to Newton City Council agenda documents. Up-fit services are to be provided by the Ankeny-based Karl Chevrolet Emergency Vehicles.

• Approved elimination of the Newton Police Department’s community service attendant position to create the community service officer position. The transfer of positions will occur pending the retirement of the current community service attendant. Community service officers are typically called upon for city code enforcement, nuisance violations, animal control and other administrative duties.

Contact Christopher Braunschweig at 641-792-3121 ext. 6560 or cbraunschweig@newtondailynews.com

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