Fireworks Complaints Increase In Sioux City; Council Members Mull Revisiting Ordinance
Police in Sioux City responded to dozens of complaints as fireworks boomed and crackled throughout the city during the 4th of July holiday weekend.
State law has allowed the sale and use of fireworks since 2017, and cities can set their own rules. Sioux City allows people to discharge fireworks from private property for a limited time on four days each year, including on July 3-4. On these two days, the city allows people to set off fireworks from 1 p.m.-11 p.m. People who are found violating the ordinance face a simple misdemeanor charge and a minimum fine of $250 on private property and $500 on city property.
The Sioux City Police Department responded to 79 fireworks-related complaints over the weekend and issued three citations. The number of complaints are up from last year, when police responded to 50 calls over the holiday. The Sioux City Journal reported that 306 fireworks complaints were made to police in June, 136 more than last year.
This past weekend, the noise in my neighborhood in Morningside would've made the combat scenes of Saving Private Ryan look like a Sunday school picnic. -Sioux City resident Mark Solheim
Sioux City resident Mark Solheim told the city council on Monday he’s frustrated by the loud noise that continued after midnight, which violates the ordinance.
“This past weekend, the noise in my neighborhood in Morningside would’ve made the combat scenes of Saving Private Ryan look like a Sunday school picnic,” Solheim said.
Solheim said he knows people who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder who “were hiding in their basements turning on the radios, the TVs as loud as they could to try and cover up the noise.” He also mentioned that some pets that are frightened run away when they hear the loud noise.
Some cities have banned the use of consumer fireworks. Des Moines code has prohibited “the use or explosion of consumer fireworks within the city limits” since 2018, but the Des Moines Register reported people still set them off. Solheim brought up Des Moines and Sioux Falls, S.D. Fireworks are illegal in Sioux Falls city limits, but the city allows sparklers, snakes and fireworks that “do not have an audible report, projectile, or launching component," according to the ordinance.
“I would think that Sioux City could come up with some sort of compromise, some sort of solution to save these people, to save our heroes this torture. To save our pets,” Solheim said.
Some police officers in the city are assigned to fireworks patrol and to actively look for fireworks violations, said Lt. Chris Groves of the Sioux City Police Department. But Groves said like any ordinance, it can be tough to enforce.
“Somebody calls and says that, ‘Citizen X is lighting these fireworks off in the street,’ and when we get there, they’re not on the street. Maybe they’re in their driveway or on their own property,” Groves said. “Essentially they weren’t out on the street, and there may even be remnants of fireworks in the street. But I can’t prove necessarily it was them or anybody else.”
I think we need to do a better job as a city at getting out the public service announcements talking about the use of fireworks, being mindful of the neighborhood you're in. -Sioux City Mayor Pro Tem Dan Moore
Councilman Pete Groetken brought up the possibility of revisiting the ordinance in the future. Groetken and Mayor Bob Scott said fireworks seemed to be louder this year than previous years. Mayor Pro Tem Dan Moore told IPR he agreed. He said even though there were public fireworks displays scheduled in Sioux City and nearby in Nebraska and South Dakota, many people likely didn’t know about them or didn’t feel comfortable going because of the coronavirus pandemic. Instead, they stayed home and set off their own displays.
“I think we still need to deal with enforcement and I think we need to do a better job as a city at getting out the public service announcements talking about the use of fireworks, being mindful of the neighborhood you’re in,” Moore said.
Sioux City Councilman Alex Watters said Monday he received a number of complaints and concerns about fireworks and heard from people who support them. He said they came mostly from people who have PTSD or pets. He said in an interview with IPR that he wants people to have the freedom to celebrate the July 4 holiday how they choose.
“But I also take into account those individuals, maybe they’re veterans with PTSD, maybe they have a dog or a pet that gets great anxiety during this time,” Watters said. He added that the city council did a good job at striking a balance with the ordinance in 2017, allowing people to shoot fireworks, but also limiting the timeframe they could do it. Though people still violate the ordinance and launch fireworks outside of the hours and days they’re permitted to.
“Sometimes this forces us to really look at that ordinance and make a decision of whether or not this is something we want to continue,” Watters said.
The city council could revisit the ordinance in the future.