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Muskego considers banning fireworks

City is one of few that allows private displays

Dec. 17, 2012

Muskego - A request that the Muskego Common Council discuss holding a nonbinding referendum on banning individual Fourth of July fireworks displays is on its way to the council from its Public Safety Committee.

Muskego is the only community in the metropolitan area that allows people to set off fireworks. Anyone who gets a city permit can shoot off fireworks within certain parameters.

The committee itself is split on such a ban but it is worried enough about safety that it wants to see how the wider community feels about it.

"It's hard to argue against the danger of fireworks," said Alderman Rob Glazier, one of two on the committee who wants safety improvements instead of a ban.

"It's a huge part of the culture around the lake," Glazier said. A ban couldn't go into effect until 2014 at the earliest. Last week, the committee had thought of an advisory referendum next April, but it may be nearly too late for that, already, members said. But it could go on the April ballot in 2014.

The city has had no major incidents with private use of fireworks, police and fire officials reported, although hot embers did start a barn on fire years ago. But firefighters were called early enough to put it out with minimal damage.

But the city does get complaints about debris from fireworks landing on neighboring properties and about the noise.

If the council supports a referendum, it would have to be ready to deal with the possibility that the majority of people don't want them anymore, Glazier said. Supporters of the ban said a fireworks accident is inevitable.

Even those who are against a ban at this point would like to see if the private use of fireworks could be made safer.

Alderman Kert Harenda, Public Safety Committee chairman, proposed inviting the 67 people who obtained fireworks permits this year and those who got them in the past to a meeting to help develop a list of safety precautions to be given to all who want fireworks permits.

The safety list could include such things as availability of fire extinguishers and cordoning off the display area, he said.

Those who object to fireworks also should be at the table, supporters of banning fireworks said.

Besides handing permit applicants a list of safe practices, Harenda favored an inspection by the Fire Department. A $20 fee could be rolled into the permit fee.

Skeptics said it would be a drain on the Fire Department to do the inspections and they might not prevent a tragedy anyway. Everything can check out fine in an inspection, but on the Fourth of July at parties with a lot of drinking going on, safety can still go by the board, they said.

Maybe it would be easier on the Fire Department if there were fewer displays to inspect, Glazier suggested. Maybe permits should only be given to groups of neighbors chipping in together on a show, he suggested.

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