September 30, 2022

Councilman Ervin said city shouldn’t get in habit of waiving ordinance readings

Council amends city code language for fireworks fines

Fireworks violation fines were increased in Newton, but the way in which the city council was recommended to waive the second and third readings and pass the changes outright is not something councilman Randy Ervin wants to get in the habit of doing on a regular basis. The mayor insisted this was a “rare occasion.”

According to city documents, the Newton City Council had already approved the increased fines from $250 to $400 for illegal discharge of fireworks in 2020.

However, the change was only noted in Section 135.05 “Fireworks; Discharging General Requirements” of the city code. The same fine increase in Section 135.06 “Owner Occupant Responsibility” was inadvertently left out of consideration. Thus, requiring the council to address the language cleanup.

With fireworks season approaching, the city requested in its proposal to have council waive the second and third readings.

Normally, each council meeting — held on the first and third Monday of every month — will issue a separate reading for deliberation. However, the third reading would have been considered on July 6, two days after citizens could legally discharge their fireworks within city limits.

Newton Mayor Mike Hansen said this matter was supposed to be taken care of.

“The reason why staff asked for a second and third reading to be waived is because if we go through the process July 4 will go by. And if our officers respond, they essentially can’t do their jobs because we don’t have an ordinance in place for them to issue the municipal citation if they deem it necessary,” Hansen said.

Ervin voted in favor of the first reading and of the motion to adopt the ordinance, but the councilman voted against the motion to waive the remaining readings. He explained although he doesn’t consider the matter to be that serious, he doesn’t want to see that sort of staff recommendation to be a reoccurring thing.

“I agree with the increase of $400. I believe I was the one who recommended it. But I don’t want to get in the habit, as a councilperson, of finding something like this and then waiving the second and third readings,” he said, noting he couldn’t remember a time since his election that the council was asked to waive readings.

Hansen doesn’t disagree with Ervin, but he also doesn’t want to stop the police from doing their jobs. It was an “innocent mistake,” he said.

Citizens of Newton may discharge consumer-grade fireworks from 8 to 11 p.m. July 4. The fireworks can be no greater than one-inch in diameter or exceed a total of 250 grams of powder for cake fireworks. A person must be 18 years or older to purchase consumer fireworks.

According to the city, no person under the age of 18 can discharged a DOT 1.4 class consumer firework without parental supervision. A person can only discharge fireworks on real property they own or on the property where consent has been given.

Anyone showing visible signs of or are determined to be intoxicated or under the influence of a drug or narcotic cannot legally discharge fireworks. Those who discharge consumer fireworks devices assumes all responsibility for its operation and the consequences thereof.

No person shall discharge fireworks in a reckless manner or in a manner likely to cause death, injury, fire or property damage. Fireworks may not be altered, removed or discharged in any way other than its intended method. Sky lanterns are not permitted within city limits unless tethered to and controlled by a retrievable rope.

Contact Christopher Braunschweig at 641-792-3121 ext. 6560 or

Christopher Braunschweig

Christopher Braunschweig

Christopher Braunschweig has a strong passion for community journalism and covers city council, school board, politics and general news in Newton, Iowa and Jasper County.