After listening to a heart-wrenching oral presentation from a U.S. veteran of war, the Sidney City Council voted to approve final changes to the dates and times when fireworks can be purchased and discharged within city limits.
Eric Twigg stood before the city council on September 21 and shared his position on proposed changes to the local fireworks ordinance.
The ordinance has undergone several modifications during the past few weeks, after the city council offered a poll at its downtown Sidney location and on the Sidney Herald Facebook page.
The proposed changes stemmed from concerned citizens. They reportedly were disturbed by noise from fireworks discharged throughout the night and during early morning hours.
A longstanding ordinance did not permit fireworks to be discharged after 10 p.m. on the Fourth of July or during an approximate two-week period leading up to July 4.
Twigg, a resident of Richland County, shared with the council and guests at the Sidney City Council meeting he is a United States armed-services veteran who suffers from Post Traumatic Stress (PTS) disorder due to harrowing combat experiences.
Twigg said he has “disturbing and distressing memories” after volunteering to serve in the U.S. armed services as a soldier.
“Fireworks are a bigger trigger,” Twigg said, noting they “take me back to my combat in a heartbeat.”
Twigg implored the city council to consider banning the discharging of fireworks from within city limits, except on July 3rd and 4th. He also recommended fireworks not be discharged on those dates after 10 p.m.
However, the city council recently voted to extend — until midnight — the time fireworks can be discharged during a portion of the Fourth of July holidays. The council simultaneously agreed to shorten the days fireworks could be sold within Sidney city limits. Previously, in accordance with state laws, fireworks could be sold starting on June 24 and until July 5.
Following the poll results, a city council committee recommended shortening the selling date from June 24 to July 1. After a local fireworks vendor appeared before the city council on September 8 and voiced displeasure over the shortened selling dates, the council sent the recommended ordinance changes back to committee for reconsideration.
It was decided in committee, based on input from all sides of the issue, that the local fireworks ordinance be amended again.
According to Jessica Chamberlin, Sidney city clerk/treasurer, the following selling dates and times are permissible under the revised fireworks ordinance:
• Selling is allowed from June 27 to July 4, from 9 a.m. until 10 p.m.
• Discharging is allowed from June 27 to July 3, from 9 a.m. until 11 p.m.
• Discharging is allowed on July Fourth until midnight.
Janet Sergent, a Sidney City Council member for Ward 3, explained to Mayor Rick Norby, fellow council members and guests that city police and fire officials met with the council committee to “go over the fireworks.”
After addressing concerns from vendors and concerned citizens, the committee worked out a compromise that allows the sale of fireworks to begin on June 27 instead of July 1 (yet three days later than in previous years).
However, the time when customers can now discharge fireworks — which changed from 10 p.m. to midnight under the first revised ordinance — was pushed back an hour to 11 p.m. The lone exception is on July Fourth, when fireworks can be discharged until midnight.
On New Year’s Eve, the committee recommended (and the council agreed), the time when people can discharge fireworks should extend until 12:30 a.m. The change reflects the fact that people typically begin celebrating New Year’s at midnight on January 1.
Mayor Norby repeatedly thanked Twigg for appearing before the Sidney City Council on September 21 and sharing his experiences as a combat veteran. Norby said it “took a lot of courage” for Twigg to stand before the council and guests to share his struggles with PTSD.
Council member Tami Christensen (Ward 3) concurred with Mayor Norby. Both said they wished Twigg had appeared at an earlier meeting to share his views about the proposed fireworks ordinance changes.
“Baby steps,” Christensen said, looking directly at Twigg. “We’ve gotten it shortened and will keep working on it.”
After everyone had voiced their concerns, the council voted unanimously to approve the committee’s recommendation to allow the sale of fireworks from June 27 to July 4, with the new discharging times set.