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Local Editorials

Respect thy neighbor

Newton’s first Fourth of July under the state’s fireworks legalization law is on the books, and the numbers are in. According to Newton Police Chief Rob Burdess, calls for service in Newton related to fireworks this holiday weekend skyrocketed.

In 2016, between June 1 and July 5, the NPD received 28 calls complaining about fireworks. During that same timeframe in 2017, law enforcement received 181 calls. Burdess said complaints picked up after June 23, but the 911 calls for fireworks on July 4 took on a different tone.

“The calls on July 4 were interesting,” Burdess said. “Some folks still thought fireworks were banned completely (in town), but some were related to citizens believing the fireworks were being discharged in an unsafe manner — too close to a building, too close to traffic, too many kids around.”

The NPD only reported one fireworks-related injury, resulting in a child being transported to a Des Moines-area hospital on July 4. The Jasper County Animal Rescue League reported one non-human injury, a 3-month-old kitten that sustained burns suspected from a firecracker.

During the 2017 Iowa legislative session, The General Assembly passed, and former Gov. Terry Branstad approved, a law legalizing the use of fireworks from June 1 to July 8 and Dec. 10 to Jan. 3 between the hours of 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. On July 4 and the Saturdays and Sundays immediately preceding and following July 4, the hours expand from 9 a.m. to 12:30 a.m. Dec. 31 to Jan. 1 fireworks are allowed between 9 a.m. to 12:30 a.m.

The Newton City Council voted in May to restrict firework use within city limits — from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. on the Fourth of July and between 9 a.m. on Dec. 31 to 12:30 a.m. New Year’s Day. The state law allows city and county governments to decide if and when fireworks can be used in their jurisdiction.

Despite many Iowa cities and counties boards of supervisors taking a second look at banning fireworks after a loud weekend, legislators on both sides of the isle in Des Moines have given no indication they’re entertaining a repeal of the law.

City council members in communities like Sioux City have been inundated with calls, texts and emails from everyone including fireworks enthusiasts to detractors. Leaders there are already considering narrowing the window to shoot off the explosives from 10 to three days, according to the Sioux City Journal.

In an editorial published May 8, the Newton Daily News urged the Newton City Council to opt out of allowing fireworks use in city limits. But with no state action in sight and Newton’s version already one of the most restrictive of the cities which allow fireworks, the colorful holiday activity is likely here to stay.

The majority of Newtonians did use fireworks safely over the Fourth of July weekend. So the key for futures holidays is responsibility and respect. Those who celebrate with fireworks have the responsibility to know Newton’s restrictions compared to the launch dates and times allowed by Jasper County and the State of Iowa. They have the responsibility to practice safety and proper use of these explosives, and give neighbors with early-morning jobs, sleeping infants and veterans suffering from PTSD respect.

Burdess said when it comes to fireworks, neighbors should just talk to each other. “It’s being a good citizen and thinking of other community members,” he said.

That’s pretty good advice.

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