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Thursday
July 18th, 2019

kay bert city commissionLiberal citizen Kay Bert talks to the Liberal City Commission Tuesday evening about some issues she encountered with this year’s 4th of July holiday. L&T photo/Elly GrimmELLY GRIMM • Leader & Times

 

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is part one of the story recapping the most recent meeting of the Liberal City Commission Tuesday night and will focus on some of the comments regarding 4th of July celebrations throughout the city during the citizens’ comments portion of the meeting. Part two will finish recapping those comments and will also recap the other action items on the agenda for the evening.

The skies may have been alive in Liberal for the 4th of July, but not everyone in town ended up having a happy holiday. 

A handful of community members spoke before the Liberal City Commission Tuesday evening to share their concerns regarding some of the fireworks that were shot off the week of the July 4 holiday. 

“I enjoy the 4th of July, I enjoy celebrating Independence Day, but I feel like five days is way too long,” Carolyn Kapp said. “Our street was like a war zone. I sat out on the porch and watched some of the things that were being shot off. I love fireworks, but they have gotten huge and there are some of them that sound like a bomb going off. I had some neighbors down the street who decided they wanted to have a Roman Candle fight and were shooting them at each other. The Third of July was the worst and the night of the Fourth, when there was the fireworks show after the Bee Jays game, it was as loud as that. I would like to say we need to remember for next year that the 4th of July lands on a Friday night and maybe make it so people shoot fireworks off only on July 3 and 4 and I don’t think we need to celebrate it on the Fifth. And I was a child once, I loved fireworks. We couldn’t afford them so we’d sit out on our porch and watch the neighbors shoot off theirs.”

“Under our ordinance, no one is supposed to be shooting off stuff July 5,” Commission Jack Carlile said. “Between code enforcement and the fire marshal, we’ve come up with a plan of what can be popped and what can’t be popped in Liberal, but when there are stands down in Oklahoma, which is only a handful of miles from our state line, we can’t restrict what they sell. And unless we have a cop sitting there checking every car going through, there’s not a lot we can do as far as what people bring in.”

“Is there a way to have it in the places that are selling fireworks in Liberal, when they come and get their permit and paperwork and everything, that they have something hung up that list the restrictions and curfews and things like that?” Kapp asked. “And then would we be able to go around to those places and make sure those signs are up in their stores?”

“I live over on North Purdue and we had a ton of people do fireworks for three or four days in that area and it didn’t seem like there were a lot of issues,” Liberal Vice Mayor Taylor Harden said. “But it’s frustrating because I feel like the rules are fair, but people don’t follow them, that’s the most frustrating thing. And there were about a dozen people in just my area that were in violation of what the ordinance allows and unfortunately there just isn’t enough emergency personnel to be able to enforce it. It’s always frustrating on stuff like this when there’s the privilege we have to use fireworks and people take advantage of it.”

Kapp also mentioned issues with people cleaning up after themselves before finishing her comments. Local citizen Kay Bert then spoke to the commission about her concerns. 

“We had fireworks going off in the yard next door and in the street and about three houses down across the street,” Bert said. “These were professional grade fireworks, these weren’t just the little Roman Candles. They went on for three hours and must have spent thousands of dollars and these fireworks were exploding above my house. There’s debris all around the front and back yards and the top of the house and the house north of us also had debris all around. My dad’s 100 years old and we were planning to go to the ball fields at the college and watch those fireworks there, but we couldn’t leave him alone at the house because we were afraid it might catch fire. One of my neighbor’s little boy was holding a fountain in his hand and the sparks were coming back at him, and that’s just far too dangerous. This was the most stressful 4th of July I’ve ever had. My children visited and we shot off some fireworks that were within the ordinance. Of course when the police drove by the neighbors’ fireworks stopped for a couple minutes but as soon as the cruiser was out of sight they started up again. And at one point they actually left to get more. We don’t have the personnel numbers to help enforce the ordinance and I would prefer we go back to not having fireworks in the city limits like we used to. I enjoy the 4th of July, but I did not enjoy this year.”

“Something I would definitely recommend for everyone, regardless of it’s a situation with fireworks or anything else, no matter if it’s a neighbor or not, call the cops,” Harden said. “I’ve gotten to meet a lot of them and they are exceedingly professional and won’t be overly aggressive when responding to a call like that. That at least allows us to have some sort of trail and then they think ‘Okay, this person has had three calls on them, we’re going to issue a citation.’ And I apologize that you weren’t able to fully enjoy the holiday and this is a difficult issue because there are a lot more people who enjoy having the ability to fire off fireworks than those who don’t. The really adverse thing about a situation like this is the ones who don’t enjoy it are really negatively affected. Hopefully within the next couple years people will get more acclimated to following the ordinance and then things will calm down because I know most people are responsible with it and don’t want to lose the privilege.”

“I think another thing is this community’s gone so long without being able to shoot them off, this year saw a lot of people go overboard,” Carlile added. “Liberal was lit up Friday night.”

Local citizen Elaine Schooley was the next to speak before the commission. 

“My neighbors were really good with their fireworks, which was great, even though whoever was shooting some off in the park wasn’t quite so nice,” Schooley said. “The reason I’m up here tonight is to ask wasn’t it a few years ago when we had an area – I believe it was a big parking lot somewhere in town – designated where you could shoot fireworks off and it was more controlled since emergency personnel was there?”

“That was 35 or 40 years ago and that didn’t work out because it was really chaotic,” Carlile said.

“I think that’s something we could maybe look into again because I know there were fireworks worth like $1,300 that were huge,” Harden said. “There might be a way we could have it where there’s a designated area for fireworks that large, but something you’d run into with that is the high possibility of personnel injury and other people possibly getting hurt.”

“The reason I mention that is because I lived in Hutchinson for a bit and they did something like that when it was really dry,” Schooley said. “I don’t want to lose the privilege of lighting off fireworks, and I’m hoping things calm down in the next few years. But what I noticed is what happens with nearly everything, there were people breaking the ordinance’s rules left and right.”

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