By Dan Spalding
WARSAW — After studying the issue for several months, Warsaw City Council is moving toward debating whether to establish local restrictions on fireworks that would be tougher than state law.
Unlike many issues the all-Republican council normally considers, the topic of fireworks is one that leaves some apparent division among the seven representatives on what to do about fireworks.
Fueled by complaints, council brought up the issue shortly after the July 4 holiday and assigned it to a committee of three led by Council President Jack Wilhite.
Wilhite said the three of them could not reach a consensus, which made it impossible to come up with a plan.
Discussions in recent months have included the city attorney, the mayor and police chief.
Of the three council members involved in the committee, Wilhite said one strongly supported tighter restrictions, one adamantly opposed any changes and he was seeking a compromise. He declined to name the other two members.
One thing the city can do is to further restrict the hours to use fireworks. State law prohibits setting off fireworks from 11 p.m. to 9 a.m.
State law includes a fine of as much as $500 and 30 days in jail for violations.
Wilhite said the city could potentially ban fireworks during the off-season. State law permits fireworks to be used five days before and after the Fourth of July and around New Year’s Eve.
“You could pass it, but unless somebody is willing to call police …,” Wilhite said.
But the entire issue is fraught with complications. Enforcement can be difficult unless police actually witness the activity. Even if Warsaw added restrictions, it would not affect residents who live in the adjacent town of Winona Lake.
And while many complain about the negative impact of fireworks, few are willing to call the police for the after-hours violations, especially if it’s their neighbors, Wilhite said.
“It’s not an easy thing,” he said.
The topic was raised by councilman Jerry Frush at the end of Monday’s meeting. He said he continues to occasionally hear complaints about fireworks.
Councilman Michael Klondaris suggested the committee come up with three options that council could consider.
Mayor Joe Thallemer urged Wilhite to try to come up with a consensus that council could consider.
More than one council member said they thought they heard fireworks early Sunday morning, Oct. 31.