RC OKs fireworks ban without prior approval

ROGERS CITY – City of Rogers City Council voted on Tuesday to ban the use of fireworks on city property without prior approval.

Council members approved a city policy banning consumer and display fireworks from being launched from all city property. That means fireworks can be launched only from city property if city council grants permission in a motion, and if the city gets an insurance rider for fireworks providing coverage for itself first. The city is considering another ordinance restricting the use of fireworks in the city, and city council will consider the second at a workshop before its July 15 meeting.

“They said if you feel strongly about this issue either way, come to the meeting, talk to your council member,” City Manager Joe Hefele said.

Consumer fireworks are included in the first ordinance because the city’s insurer doesn’t differentiate between these smaller fireworks as defined by Michigan law and professional-grade ones, Hefele said. Excluded are sparklers, smoke bombs, low-impact fireworks like fountains and other small novelties.

The second ordinance, if adopted, would allow fireworks the day before, the day of and the day after a national holiday between 8 a.m. and 1 a.m., banning them on all other days. A second option would allow fireworks on all other days between 8 a.m. and 11 p.m. Both were drafted by Hefele and comply with Michigan’s three-year-old law allowing more powerful consumer fireworks and setting aside days where local governments cannot ban their use. They’re modeled on other ordinances passed by Michigan municipalities, Hefele said.

Council members want to discuss the second ordinance at a workshop, and want lots of public input as they consider it. The city has received complaints about fireworks being used, especially about the hours they’re being fired. Mayor Tom Sobeck said he wants to give any new ordinance regulating fireworks use its proper “due process.”

Hefele agreed, adding after the meeting that while city council may seem to be moving slowly on the matter, he believes any decision reached in haste is often a bad one.

“This is potentially a hot-button issue. I would concur we need to open the door and listen to what folks have to say,” he said.

The workshop is set for July 15 at 5:30 in city hall, 193 E. Michigan Ave.

In other business:

* council members narrowly approved a request from Police Chief Matt Quaine to close South Shore Park from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. on Aug. 1-3 during Nautical Festival, with council members Gary Nowak and Scott McLennan voting no. Quaine said it’s the 15th year he’s asked for the closure for the park, and all other city parks would be closed from 2-6 a.m. those days. After the meeting, Quaine said the park’s closed during those hours to prevent people from partying there all night long, as some had in the past. McLennan said he voted no because he believes it’s been long enough to try leaving the park open for a year, and that people enjoy walking on the beach after hours.

* council approved a letter of understanding between city employees who are members of the local AFSCME to extend their contracts for six months while the city waits for supplementals from the state Municipal Employees Retirement System. It includes a 1.5 percent raise and language for an opt-out period as required by the state’s right-to-work law.

* Rogers City won’t be advertising in the Presque Isle County Plat Book this year, as council members agreed the $800 wasn’t in the city’s budget and was too much to spend. Hefele also brought up the need to discuss a coherent policy for promoting the city.

* Rogers City Lions Club past President Karen Maher presented a formal thank you from the club to the city for allowing the club’s annual white cane sale on city streets.

* commissioners gave a second reading to 10 zoning ordinance amendments that Hefele believes will make the city more business-friendly. They include allowing child care businesses in certain districts, dropping sidewalk and bike parking requirements for new highway and industrial districts and allowing 12-foot-high freestanding downtown business signs.

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.