Washougal Council limits fireworks to ‘safe and sane’

Restrictions will go into effect in November of 2018

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New Year’s Eve, Dec. 31, 2018, will be the first holiday during which celebrants in Washougal will be limited to only use “safe and sane” fireworks.

The ordinance, approved by the Washougal City Council on Monday, Nov. 13, will go into effect in mid-November of 2018. “Safe and sane” fireworks include cylindrical and cone fountains, sparklers, ground spinners, novelties, wheels and smoke devices.

The Council’s 4-3 decision to only allow fireworks that do not fly, explode or travel more than one foot into the air or more than six feet on the ground included “yes” votes from Brent Boger, Paul Greenlee, Dave Shoemaker and Joyce Lindsay.

Earlier in the evening, Shoemaker voted against restricting fireworks use to just the “safe and sane” variety, and the ordinance had failed 4-3.

Shoemaker then made a motion to overturn Mayor Sean Guard’s veto of the council’s Nov. 6 decision to ban the use of personal fireworks in Washougal. The attempt to overturn the mayor’s veto failed 4-3, with Boger, Shoemaker and Lindsay voting for it.

Boger then asked Shoemaker if he would reconsider his vote to only allow “safe and sane” fireworks.

Councilwoman Michelle Wagner said the council’s actions were “bordering on absurd,” and she wanted the fireworks issue to be discussed again during a future workshop, with additional information from the public.

“If you can’t stand the heat from your first vote, get out of the kitchen,” councilman Ray Kutch said.

Boger said Robert’s Rules allows council members to change their minds.

Wagner said the council should give the fireworks issue “some breathing room” with a new council member in 2018 to provide input.

Julie Russell will succeed Shoemaker as the Position 6 councilmember in January.

Shoemaker said during the meeting Monday he was shocked to receive the email from Guard about his veto.

“I was blindsided (by the email) after passing the ban,” Shoemaker said.

He said the mayor had exhibited “undue influence,” even if it was not his intention.

“You’re not entitled to manipulate the council,” Shoemaker said.

Guard emailed council members, regarding his veto of the ban, about 45 minutes after the Nov. 6 council meeting ended.

He said he conferred with City Administrator David Scott and City Attorney Ken Woodrich after the meeting.

“Four-to-three was not an overwhelming majority,” Guard said, regarding the council’s vote to ban the use of personal fireworks and his reason for a veto.

He said the ban would not stop the mortars from going off.

Guard said he has no connections to any of the companies or nonprofits that sell fireworks in the Camas-Washougal area.

Wagner said Guard had made the right decision to veto the council’s ban on the use of personal fireworks, and she had recommended asking Washougal residents their opinions about fireworks restrictions during an April of 2018 survey.

Lindsay said the fireworks noise has become intolerable, and she supported a total ban on the use of personal fireworks.

She hopes things will get better with the ordinance that will allow “safe and sane” fireworks. If they don’t, the council can readdress the issue, Lindsay said.

Bill Durgan, a Washougal resident, wants the permitted use of fireworks to remain as is, but only on July 4 and with a requirement that people clean up their fireworks after use.

Currently in the city limits of Washougal, personal fireworks can be purchased from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m., July 2 through July 4, and from noon to 11 p.m., Dec. 29 through Dec. 31. Personal fireworks can be discharged in Washougal from 9 a.m. to midnight, July 4, and from 6 p.m. to 1 a.m., Dec. 31.

It is illegal in Washington State, except on Native American Indian reservations, to discharge firecrackers, bottle rockets, sky rockets and missiles, M-80s, M-100s, improvised explosive devices and altered fireworks.