Fireworks meeting starts with a bang, ends with a fizzle

Special meeting planned for Friday to finish discussion
Red Langel, a resident of the Mendenhall Valley, testifies in support of fireworks use in city-owned parks during Tuesday night's Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee meeting.

Like a defective bottle rocket, the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee’s Tuesday evening meeting about fireworks started off noisy but nothing happened in the end.

 

The PRAC spent its monthly meeting discussing whether the city’s Parks and Recreation Department should limit or ban the use of fireworks in city-owned parks. Though the committee doesn’t have the authority to make any such action official, it can write a recommendation to the city Assembly, which can. That’s what Tuesday’s meeting was about.

But after a three-and-a-half hour meeting, nearly half of which was dedicated to public testimony, the PRAC decided not to forward a recommendation to the Assembly — not yet, any way.

Committee member Tom Rutecki moved to recommend that the Assembly limit fireworks in city-owned parks based on date, time, size and location. If that sounds vague, it’s because it was. Rutecki and the five other committee members who voted in support of his recommendation argued that though admittedly indistinct, it allows the Assembly to draft the fireworks restriction it sees fit.

Rutecki’s motion passed initially, but Josh Anderson, one of the two committee members who voted against the motion, asked that it be reconsidered at the PRAC’s next meeting. Committee chairman Chris Mertle voted against Rutecki’s motion and supported the reconsideration.

“We’re somewhat passing the buck to the Assembly, saying ‘do what you want to do,’” Mertle said describing Rutecki’s recommendation. Mertle suggested that the committee wait until its next meeting to finish drafting a more pointed recommendation.

[Will this be the last Fourth of July fireworks are allowed?]

For Rutecki and other committee members, like Chris Prussing, waiting any longer is nothing more than stalling.

“For us to delay this is wrong,” Rutecki said. “It’s been four months; we’re not going to hear anything new. We just need to send this to the assembly and move on.”

The PRAC will take up this issue at a special meeting Friday at 6 p.m. in the Assembly Chambers. That gives the PRAC enough time to craft a recommendation before the Assembly discusses its soon-to-be-complete draft fireworks ordinance at its Oct. 10 work session.

Fourteen people testified at Tuesday’s meeting, most of whom supported some kind of community compromise regarding the use of fireworks. This would likely take the form of some firework restrictions in city parks.

Clark Ridgeway, one of the members of the public who testified, said that the desire for finding common ground shouldn’t be a surprise.

“No community member of any salt would say they are not willing to compromise,” he said.

The PRAC will not be taking public testimony at it’s special meeting Friday.

• Contact reporter Sam DeGrave at 523-2279 or sam.degrave@juneauempire.com.

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