Another attempt to restrict fireworks in Kelso has fizzled out.
Just as discussion of proposed fireworks restrictions began ramping up at the Kelso City Council meeting Tuesday night, the council abruptly and unanimously tabled the measure, halting further discussion.
In a surprise move, Councilman Jim Hill, who had proposed the restrictions, even seconded the motion to table the measure shortly after arguing in favor of the restrictions.
Five members of the public spoke against the measure, including chairman of the Kelso Recreation Council Scott DeRosier. He told the council that fireworks sales is the group’s only source of fundraising, which provides $3,000 in scholarships to local high school seniors annually.
“Cutting the fundraising of the groups that are giving back to Kelso is certainly something that we cannot have,” DeRosier said.
Three candidates for City Council also spoke against the proposal: Keenan Harvey, who is running against Councilman Hill; Kelburn Koontz, who is running against Councilman David Futcher; and Lisa Alexander, who is running to replace her husband, Councilman Larry Alexander, who is not seeking re-election.
Hill’s proposal would have limited fireworks sales and discharges to July 3, 4 and 5. And it would have prohibited pyrotechnics and ground-launched devices that are detonation-only.
Councilman Mike Karnofski supported the restrictions because it was “worthy of discussion.”
Hill, a Vietnam War veteran, has been pursuing fireworks restrictions for a decade. He told the council Tuesday that there are cities such as Vancouver and Castle Rock that have successfully reduced the number of days during which fireworks can be purchased and discharged.
“All I’m asking for are the folks who sell fireworks and discharge them to understand there is also a segment of the community that has the right and the privilege of living in our community in a peaceful, quiet manner,” Hill said.
After Hill finished, Councilman Jeffrey McAllister proposed tabling the matter until a later date, and Hill seconded it. The council then unanimously voted to pause discussions of fireworks restrictions. Councilwoman Kim Lefebvre was absent.
Hill told The Daily News on Wednesday that there was no point in discussing the matter further when four members of the council were opposed to the restrictions and there wasn’t anyone from the public at the meeting to support the changes.
“(The decision) was totally not surprising,” Hill said. “What was utterly shocking was the empty chambers.”
He had left the council chambers shortly after the vote, but Hill said Wednesday that was due to a prior family commitment, not the council’s decision to halt discussions.
“This issue has not reached the level of concern within community I thought, apparently. Perhaps I misread people’s reactions. Perhaps, in fact, people really don’t want changes. I find that strange, but nevertheless,” he said.
After Hill left, the remaining five councilmembers voted unanimously to table discussions “indefinitely.”
Hill said he would bring fireworks restrictions back to the council, but only if it was clear there is community support.
“If I get the impression we’re going to have another situation like last night where absolutely no one showed up to support adopted changes, then I won’t,” he said.
In other business on Tuesday night, Futcher updated the council on the process to interview the six finalists for the open city manager position.
The candidates will interview with community and city staff panels Friday morning, said Councilman Futcher, who is a member of the council’s city manager search subcommittee. At lunch, the council will discuss with the panels and then interview the candidates in a closed executive session.
The candidates would then have time to tour the city before an afternoon reception that would be open to the public, Futcher said.
Also during the meeting, the council:
- Welcomed new civil engineer Shaun Wright
- Supported adding a full-time prosecutor position.
- Delayed consideration of a $675,800 grant from the Federal Aviation Administration until a later meeting because the FAA didn’t submit the paperwork in time.
- Updated the city employee leave-sharing policy to include caring for a family member with a serious health condition.
- Appointed Cowlitz County Historical Museum Director Joseph Govednik to the Kelso Public Library Advisory Board.
- Closed out a $421,000 contract with C & R Tractor to upgrade parts of Grade Street, Oak Street, Fourth Avenue and Fifth Avenue. The project finished $40,500 over the original contract amount.