Onaway: No fireworks relocation

News Staff Writer

ONAWAY – The fireworks launch location for Onaway’s Fourth of July celebration will not change from last year’s, despite a recent announcement to the contrary.

The Onaway Area Chamber of Commerce had announced in December in the local newspaper it was finalizing a move of the fireworks launch location, City Manager Joe Hefele said. However, the chamber had intended to move it to a location without enough clearance to comply with fireworks regulations. Instead, the city will continue to use the same field it used in 2013.

“You need 100 feet of clear space per inch of shell (diameter),” he said. “The biggest ones we shoot off during the show are 10-inch shells … we need 1,000 feet of clearance in every direction.”

That equates to four million square feet of property, and the current location sits in the middle of 13 million square feet, Hefele said. There’s more than twice the required distance from the launch site to the nearest building, road or area where spectators would be. The business the chamber was considering is located on a smaller lot, Hefele said.

Instead, the owner of the current location will allow its continued use, as long as the city is responsible for the show, Hefele said. The city leases the property for 10 days in July and insures the show, while the chamber contributes a large portion of the money to buy the fireworks.

“I would hope they continue to do that,” he said.

Onaway Area Fire Department Chief Roger Nash has the pyrotechnics license needed for the show, Hefele said.

Nash said he was approached by the chamber about moving the fireworks to a different location. After reviewing the idea, he learned the proposed location wasn’t big enough.

Onaway’s future membership with the chamber is in doubt. Hefele told city commissioners at their meeting Monday he doesn’t recommend the city continue as a member unless the chamber provide information about its finances and board members. He also said the city should have been notified to participate in chamber board elections in December.

Connie Gibson, Onaway Area Chamber president, said the chamber has nothing to hide and is “doing fine.” It’ll continue to promote area businesses, and anyone who wants to attend meetings is welcome to do so on the second Tuesday of every month in the local Veterans of Foreign Wars hall.

She declined to comment any further, saying she did not attend the city commission meeting Monday.

The chamber moved out of its location in city hall following a dispute between the city and chamber. In a December meeting, Schmeltzer accused the organization of getting involved with recall efforts against the mayor and all five city commissioners, according to Hefele. That effort started after the city opted not to renew Jim Gibson’s contract as police chief and contract with the Presque Isle County Sheriff Department for additional patrol.

While Gibson, Connie’s husband, ran against Mayor Gary Wregglesworth in the recall and filed a petition against two of the commissioners, both he and Connie insist the chamber was not involved. Gibson previously said he believes the city was trying to take retribution against the chamber by unfairly scrutinizing its lease with the city, an accusation Hefele denied.

In other business:

commissioners voted Monday to renew leases with the Presque Isle District Library’s local branch and the Onaway Historical Museum. The library’s rent will continue as before, and the new lease contains a rollover clause. The museum will pay $5 per month, with the intent of allowing the museum to spend its funds on restoring the former Lobdell Building as its new location.

commissioners voted on assignments, and Schmeltzer will serve as deputy mayor. He’ll also serve on the city’s board of review, along with Chuck Abshagen and Jesse Horrocks, with Ron Horrocks serving as alternate. Wregglesworth will serve on the Onaway Area Fire Department board with Abshagen, Schmeltzer will serve on the Onaway Area Ambulance Service board and Ron Horrocks will serve on the planning commission.

commissioners scheduled a budget workshop for 1 p.m. on Jan. 22.

Jordan Travis can be reached via email at jtravis@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5688. Follow Jordan on Twitter @jt_alpenanews. Read his blog, A Snowball’s Chance, at www.thealpenanews.com.