ILWACO — City councilors in Ilwaco last week signaled their support for the ban of the sale and use of consumer fireworks within city limits which, if ultimately enacted, would make it the first peninsula community to impose such a ban.
The issue arose after outgoing Ilwaco Mayor Gary Forner asked the council at last Monday’s regular meeting to take a stance on the future of the city’s fireworks policy ahead of a countywide workshop this Tuesday between the Pacific County Commissioners, municipal leaders in the county and other stakeholders. Earlier this month, the Long Beach City Council adopted an ordinance that cuts the sale and use of consumer fireworks in the city from eight to five days.
After rigorous discussion at last week’s meeting, Ilwaco councilors, by a 3-2 vote, asked city staff to draft an ordinance that would ban all consumer sales and discharge within Ilwaco city limits. The ordinance, if adopted, would not affect the annual professional fireworks show held at the Port of Ilwaco. It also would not bar individuals from possessing consumer fireworks within city limits.
Councilors Missy Bageant, Dave Cundiff and Jonathan Quittner voted in favor of drafting the ordinance to ban consumer fireworks, while Matt Lessnau and Kristen Mathison voted against the move. While the mayor doesn’t have a vote in the manner, Forner said he was in favor of a “flat-out ban” on consumer fireworks.
Some councilors said they did not mind if the city ultimately followed Long Beach or Pacific County’s lead and adopted similar but less far-reaching restrictions than a total ban, but were adamant that they didn’t want to adopt restrictions weaker than what Long Beach or the county adopted. They said Ilwaco shouldn’t be afraid of leading on the issue.
“I think at this point a ban is not unreasonable, and I think it’s also reasonable to let the city lead if that’s what we resolve to do,” Quittner said.
The council discussed the possibility of reducing the number of days fireworks can be discharged in Ilwaco, in addition to granting the city the authority to ban the use of fireworks in any year if an imminent threat, namely high fire danger, is present. However, councilors and Ilwaco Fire Chief Jeff Archer could not agree on who should be vested with that power — Archer and some councilors believed the authority should lie with an elected official or the council as a whole, while some councilors believed it should lie with the fire chief or other authoritative city official.
For some councilors, the effort of trying to sort through some of those finer details pushed them toward ultimately favoring a blanket ban on consumer fireworks. “The more I come to appreciate the complexities of not banning [consumer fireworks], the more my predisposition to simplicity leads me toward a ban,” said Cundiff, with Quittner concurring.
Many councilors acknowledged potential issues when it comes to law enforcement being able to effectively enforce a sweeping ban on the use of consumer fireworks — particularly since Ilwaco contracts with Long Beach to have its police department cover Ilwaco, as well.
“I’m a fan of laws that can be easily enforced,” said Lessnau, “and my apprehension to [banning] the discharge of fireworks comes from the burden that would place on our local law enforcement.”
However, those in favor of the ban argued that the potential fire danger, environmental damage and the effects on pets and wildlife that are posed by fireworks are serious enough to warrant a ban.
The drafted ordinance will be up for discussion at the Nov. 22 regular council meeting, Ilwaco City Treasurer Holly Beller confirmed, and the councilors can vote to adopt the ordinance at that meeting if they so choose.