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Rockets' red glare again smolders over Muskego

City deals with fireworks ordinance questions one more time

Neighbors to Lake Access Parcel 2 fired off a few pyrotechnics prior to the start of the official fireworks display over Little Muskego Lake in July.

Neighbors to Lake Access Parcel 2 fired off a few pyrotechnics prior to the start of the official fireworks display over Little Muskego Lake in July.

Dec. 16, 2013

Muskego — More fireworks may burst over the heads of Muskego aldermen over a familiar topic.

With their decision last week to review the city's fireworks ordinance, aldermen, meeting as the Committee of the Whole, faced the opening salvos of potentially more controversy over an issue the city has faced several times in the past.

Once again, the elected officials heard a wide range of preferences — to get rid of fireworks completely or merely in subdivisions, not to get rid of them at all, and to shorten the number of days and hours fireworks are allowed — from those present at the Dec. 10 meeting.

Aldermen will get to those issues at the next meeting, but last week they pretty much focused on requests from groups who want to have fireworks displays at times other than the Fourth of July.

Reviewing 'civic' approach

Muskego is the only community in the metropolitan area that allows people and groups to have fireworks displays if they obtain a permit.

Currently, fireworks are allowed from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. July 1 to 7 with a permit. City ordinances also allow civic groups to have fireworks displays any other time with a permit.

However, when a group this year asked to have a display, City Hall officials didn't know if they were a "civic group," and the request died. But it triggered the current review.

In discussions, aldermen tended to favor a more flexible approach than "civic groups" when it came to these "anytime" fireworks displays. For example, if a bride and groom would like fireworks at their wedding, aldermen tended to view that as acceptable.

"I say, entertain them all," said Alderman Kevin Kubacki.

But aldermen tended to agree that groups' requests for fireworks permits should be reviewed on a case-by-case basis, probably by the Finance Committee.

They also tended to want displays by such groups to be executed by professionals, so the city doesn't have to figure out whether a certain display is safe. Fireworks companies already have those kinds of standards worked out, said Mayor Kathy Chiaverotti.

A fireworks company also would provide proof of insurance and name the city as insured.

Cooling hot issues

Revisions such as these and any others aldermen want pertaining to individuals and groups who want fireworks permits for July 1 through 7 would have to be written into city ordinances, with opportunities for public input.

Knowing there is division over allowing fireworks, and that neighbors are often aggravated by having to pick up fireworks debris from their yards, Common Council President Dan Soltysiak suggested a way to promote compromise by including neighbors in the permit process.

He suggested that the city require fireworks to be a minimum number of feet away from buildings. Where homes are close together, those wanting fireworks would need the cooperation of neighbors to accumulate enough of a zone to have the display, he said.

Safety concerns and debris in yards would then have to be addressed before the neighbors would sign the permit request.

However, Kubacki doubted that would be enough of a solution because the wind can blow fireworks debris far beyond neighboring homes.

Addressing fire concerns

During the Dec. 10 meeting, aldermen allowed residents to offer other comments, and some focused on the fear of fires.

Tom Nowicki of Kathryn Drive, who favored two days instead of seven in July holiday permits and also more limited hours during those days, criticized enforcement of existing permit rules. Permits require fire suppression equipment to be handy, but he knows of people who have shot off fireworks without even having a bucket of water around, Nowicki said.

Fire also was a concern of Frank Korosec, of River Oaks Court, who said he worries about hot embers landing in the woods behind homes in his area and setting them on fire. He also worries about his home, where rocket debris frequently lands on his roof.

"Who would be liable if my house catches on fire?" Korosec asked.

He called for at least a 500-foot buffer between fireworks and houses. He also said the city should not allow such large rockets.

Only one resident in favor of fireworks happened to be there and David Taube, former alderman, said people have shot off fireworks in Muskego for 50 years and been careful and no homes have caught fire.

"This is an activity that has created no serious problems," Taube said.

Some may be annoyed by it, he acknowledged. But people are annoyed by many accepted activities, he said, noting that some are annoyed by gunfire during duck hunting season.

"Where do you draw the line on being over-reactive?" he asked.

NEXT STEP

WHAT: Muskego Committee of the Whole review of the city's fireworks ordinance (public participation will likely be allowed)

WHEN: tentatively 5:45 p.m. Jan. 14

WHERE: Muskego City Hall, S8200 Racine Ave.

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