ES council approves July 6 fireworks show

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

By Samantha Jones

The Eureka Springs City Council exploded with debate Monday night over a proposed ordinance that would allow the city to have a fireworks show celebrating the Fourth of July.

Parks director Justin Huss said the show is scheduled for Saturday, July 6, because the city saves money by waiting a few days after July 4. The fireworks will be shot from Marble Flat, Huss said, giving everyone in town a chance to see the show.

Alderwoman Susan Harman asked about the city’s liability in case something goes wrong. Harman said Ordinance 2279 doesn’t specify the location where fireworks will be shot, saying that means the show can take place on city-owned or private property.

“I have an issue with any fireworks being shot from private land just because of liability,” Harman said. “This particular ordinance doesn’t specify if it would be one or the other.”

Alderman Terry McClung said the proposed ordinance takes care of everything the city needs to have a fireworks show.

“I don’t think we can even shoot them off at Leatherwood … without having this ordinance,” McClung said. “I think this ordinance is needed in that respect. As far as personal property, I don’t have a problem with that as long as the city is indemnified on what the location is.”

Harman asked city attorney Tim Weaver if the city could be held liable in case something goes awry.

“Could we be held liable if something happens and it’s on private property without either a release or with the current insurance?” Harman asked.

“The city has tort immunity unless we have insurance,” Weaver said, “so to purchase insurance would actually be disadvantageous to the city. Whether it’s on public or private property, we’re not liable based on tort immunity unless we do have insurance that covers it.”

Alderwoman Melissa Greene asked Huss why the parks and recreation commission didn’t approve the fireworks show, and Huss said the commission discussed it at a budget meeting.

“This was part of our special events line item,” Huss said. “We discussed it.”

Greene asked how traffic control and notification will work, saying she’s worried guests won’t know about the fireworks and will stop their cars in the middle of the street to view the show.

“I expect it to be like a parade night traffic-wise,” Huss said. “One of the advantages … is people don’t have to go to one place to see the show. There’s not a concentration of vehicles. There’s not a viewing area. People can park like a busy Saturday night.”

Greene said she’s concerned about properly notifying everyone the show is happening. For veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder and people with pets, Greene said, a fireworks show can be stressful.

“Pets bolt during fireworks,” Greene said.

“We’re conscious of the situation with animals and PTSD. I feel pretty confident … we’re going to have this out pretty well,” Huss said. “We’d like to do some of that outreach, but it would be inappropriate until this body moves forward with [the ordinance].”

McClung said he supports the proposed ordinance, and alderman Harry Meyer agreed. The fireworks will be shot from a safe place, Meyer said.

“We have to have the ordinance if we’re going to shoot fireworks, and the Fourth of July is when municipalities shoot fireworks,” Meyer said. “I think we need to observe this holiday the way people do it all over the United States.”

Alderman Bob Thomas moved to approve Ordinance 2279 on a third reading by title only, and the council voted 4-1 to do so.

“Let’s have fireworks,” Meyer said.

Also at the meeting, Mayor Butch Berry updated the council on the property at 25 Norris St. Berry said he met with representatives from Mercy Hospital who expressed interest in purchasing the property but said the building isn’t big enough for the hospital’s needs. Berry said the next step is to put the property out for bid.

“It’s got to be by bid. It’s up to the council whether or not they want to accept that bid,” Berry said.

McClung moved to put the building up for bid, and the council unanimously agreed to do so.

In other business, the council approved an ordinance prohibiting animal suffering on a third and final reading and passed a resolution allowing a city council member to serve on the planning commission for six months or until the commission has more members.

The council’s next regular meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday, June 24, at the Auditorium.

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