Months after a proposed firework ban fizzled, the Fulton City Council is once more discussing how to snuff out the "firework wars."
Last year, City Council members were alarmed to hear of the scale and potential danger posed by the tradition, in which participants arm themselves with fireworks and face off in Carver Park. Fans say participants know the risks; opponents note passersby and nearby property risk harm.
The topic came up again during the council's Feb. 9 meeting. For now, the council plans to move ahead with the course of action determined last September: have the Fulton Police Department crack down and enforce Fulton's current firework ordinance, and see how it goes.
"We gave (Fulton Police Chief Steve Myers) an extra $5,000 to buy some equipment he requested," Fulton Director of Administration Bill Johnson said.
Much of the "fireworks war" behavior described by witnesses and captured on video is already illegal. Fulton's ordinances ban non-licensed individuals from firing off large display-grade fireworks; firing fireworks at structures, other people and toward/from vehicles; and firing fireworks in city parks.
This year, the Carver Park area will see a heavy police presence around the Fourth of July. Myers also plans to meet with known firework war organizers to remind them of the law and warn them it will be enforced.
"I did get the money in my budget," Myers told the City Council. "I have ordered as much gas as I can possibly order with the budget I have. They aren't guaranteeing me to get any of it because of the riots all over the United States. We're trying to get gas also from the Highway Patrol."
Myers said the Fulton Police Department is looking into other "types of devices" as well.
"I think if you want the ordinance to the letter enforced, we'll be able to do that," he said.
Other potential preventive measures continue to be discussed.
Ward 1 council member Ballard Simmons brought up an idea he'd heard floating around: The city could designate an area for the fireworks war to take place. He wondered if that would be a liability issue for the city.
"Yes, absolutely," Mayor Lowe Cannell said. "I'm not a lawyer, but yes."
Council members have also discussed outlawing the firing of certain kinds of fireworks within city limits. Ward 2's Jeff Stone suggested banning any fireworks that shoot higher than 4 feet.
City Clerk Courtney Doyle said that option was discussed with the Missouri Fire Marshal's Office last year.
"They strongly suggest that we don't get into the nitty-gritty of allowing this and not allowing that," she said. "How they explained it to me was you either need to go either all or nothing. When you get into 'this is allowed,' the grams of the fireworks remain pretty constant but the products themselves change quite frequently."
Lastly, the council wants to make it easier for residents to report noise and firework ordinance violations. Currently, they can call the police department to alert them of misbehavior, but filing a formal complaint requires an in-person visit to the Fulton Police Department headquarters.
The City Council may choose to reintroduce an ordinance banning all firework sales and discharge in the city in the future, but Myers was not optimistic that would work.
"I think some of you don't understand the situation," he told the council. "They're going to be shooting fireworks whether there's an ordinance or not."
The Fulton City Council also heard the first reading of an ordinance rezoning a tract of land on Jamestown Drive. If passed, Bill 1606 would reclassify the empty tract from an R-1 residential district to an R-3 residential district, like the surrounding land. Huey Property owns the land and wants to build three duplex units there.
The city's planning and zoning commission approved the proposed rezoning during its Feb. 3 meeting.
During a public hearing on the matter earlier in the meeting, no area residents spoke in favor or against the rezoning. City Council members voted unanimously to pass the bill to its second reading during the Feb. 23 Fulton City Council meeting.