Written by Don Ratzlaff Tuesday, 13 March 2012 15:05
Following an extended discussion, the Hillsboro City Council agreed at its March 6 meeting to grant an exception to the city’s fireworks ordinance that will allow a private business to host a fireworks display in the city’s downtown area next month in conjunction with a fundraiser for the Hillsboro Senior Center.
Charles Rempel made the request on behalf of the HSC board, which he serves as president, and Charlie’s Fireworks, a business he owns and operates.
The fundraiser will be a pulled-pork sandwich dinner April 28. Following the meal, Main Street would be closed for the display from First to Second streets, which runs past the senior center, beginning at 8:30 p.m.
Ordinance 1130 allows the use of fireworks within the city limits for a few days around the Fourth of July and on New Year’s Eve. It also gives the city council authority to grant exceptions for “certain city-wide celebrations and community events.”
The council voted 3-1 to grant the request for Charlie’s Fireworks despite a letter from Ben Steketee, the city’s fire chief, recommending that the council decline the request because the proposed display “is a demonstration to promote sales.”
Steketee’s letter also stated that based on “a risk vs. benefit thought mode...I don’t see where the event proposed carries the same weight as the 4th of July and New Year’s Eve, so I don’t think it’s worth the risk.”
Rempel told the council his business had hosted a “pre-order party for a few customers where videos of new fireworks in 2011 were displayed.”
He said this year’s show would be a “shoot-off party” with live fireworks provided at no cost by Winco Fireworks.
Because he believed the display would draw potential customers from the area, Rempel said the event could benefit the city because “it has the potential for drawing those who may not normally come to Hillsboro to visit our community and contribute to our economy.”
In response to questions from the council, Rempel acknowledged that the senior center would not benefit directly from any fireworks orders he might receive as a result of the display.
But Rempel said HSC board members believe the fireworks show could benefit the center indirectly by drawing more people to the fundraiser meal.
He quoted board members as saying, “If we don’t do the fireworks, we might as well not do the fundraiser.”
Council members discussed finding a different location in town, such as Memorial Park, for the fireworks display to lessen the risk. They also talked about the danger of setting a precedent for other requests.
On the latter concern, City Administrator Larry Paine reminded the council that each request that comes to the council can be approved or disapproved on its own merits.
In the end, the council voted for the exception as a way to communicate the city’s support for the senior center.
“I would like to help the senior center,” Councilor Byron McCarty said. “We sometimes hear that they think we don’t do anything for them.”
McCarty, Bob Watson and Marlene Fast voted for the recommendation while Shelby Dirks vote against it.
Mayor Delores Dalke reminded everyone at the meeting that taxpayers will be contributing financially to the event because city funds pay for a fire truck and firefighter to be on site, as protocol requires.
“And remember what we did for your personal business,” she told Rempel.
Rempel said fireworks is one of his passions, and that the approach he uses for pricing his products doesn’t result in significant personal profit.
“It makes not a lot of difference to me whether I shoot fireworks or not (as part of the fundraiser),” he said.