The Wichita City Council on Tuesday postponed indefinitely a decision on changes to the city’s fireworks laws.
City council members – following the lead of Mayor Jeff Longwell – said they want to bring the issue back to their District Advisory Boards for more discussion before they make any changes.
The council is considering two proposals: One would keep the city’s fireworks law more or less the same, with a ban on fireworks with sparks higher than six feet. It would also set a sales permit fee of $1500. The other option would loosen Wichita’s strict laws to allow consumer-grade fireworks to be set off in certain safe zones — but it would raise the cost of a sales permit to $5,000.
Some residents spoke in support of allowing those bigger fireworks. Neighboring cities in Sedgwick County already allow the sale and use of consumer-grade fireworks, making it difficult to enforce Wichita’s ban.
“Right now we have people shooting fireworks over six feet tall in almost every neighborhood of the city,” Longwell said. “And that’s gotta stop. We’ve gotta figure out how to enforce that. But I think you have a lot of people that want to shoot fireworks that are over six feet tall and I think we have to work a little better at giving them a safe place to shoot those fireworks that are over six feet tall.”
But Jacob Marietta with the retailer Wholesale Fireworks says it’s not easy to do it safely.
“I’ve traveled the world, I’ve traveled the United States, I’ve shot fireworks on multiple different continents,” he told council members. “Safe-shoot sites are a difficult, difficult thing.”
And, he said the increased permit fee would force many tents – usually run by volunteer groups – to close.
The proposal “would be detrimental to the fireworks industry,” Marietta said.
Council members agreed that tweaks are needed to the proposals, but didn’t say when the ordinances will be back on the agenda. The issue was already deferred from a previous meeting in December.
The council expects to have a new ordinance passed before July 4.
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