By Brett Nachtigall
HOT SPRINGS – During Communications from the Public at its Tuesday, July 6 meeting, the Hot Springs City Council heard from city resident Patricia Hinton who took issue with the city’s fireworks ordinance, which this year allowed them to be fired from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. June 27 through July 11.
Hinton said she has multiple medical conditions which were aggravated by the loud noises of the fireworks and have caused her cumulative severe symptoms, which also forced her to bring her support animal with her to the council meeting.
“I can see a couple of days of ‘celebration’ with fireworks on a limited scope,” Hinton said. “But this idea of within city limits, where people are disturbed in their homes, where they are supposed to be safe or feel safe, the two weeks is absolutely uncalled for and detrimental. Especially to people who have post-traumatic stress response, which a lot of the vets in this town have.”
Hinton’s discussion with the council lasted more than 20 minutes where it was explained that the city’s current fireworks ordinance was passed last year and follows the state statute which allows the discharging of fireworks until the first Sunday following the Fourth of July.
“In this particular case, it’s the worst case scenario, because July 4th is on Sunday this year, there’s another week that the fireworks are legal under the current ordinance,” stated Mayor Bob Nelson, who added that he had received a number of complaints about the scope of the personal fireworks that had been discharged within the city limits this year – both in duration and in the height and loudness of them.
Several other council members also offered their comments and agreed that the city should reexamine the ordinance and noted how a number of other Black Hills communities limit the discharge of fireworks within their municipalities, even though state law allows a more expanded use of fireworks.
Councilman Bill Lukens, who heads up the Public Safety Committee, agreed with the overall tone of the discussion and said he and his committee would look at changing the ordinance for next year.
“I understand, I hear you and we’re going to work hard to make it right,” Lukens told Hinton.
Later in the meeting, the council passed a Variance Request by Eileen Ohliger at 446 S. 5th Street for a temporary carport to be placed on her property. The vote passed unanimously 6-0, however with Councilmen Larry Pratt and Craig Romey both abstaining.
During the Public Hearing on the matter, held just prior to the vote, Ohliger’s neighbor Glen Denton spoke in opposition of the variance request, sighting that she had not communicated properly with him and that the certified letter he received a few days ago was the first he had heard of her request. Denton was then informed by the city council that the certified letter was Ohliger’s only requirement and that the matter had been discussed publicly at length for several weeks in both Planning and Zoning as well as by the full city council.
At the beginning of the meeting, City Finance Officer Misty Summers-Walton swore in recently elected councilmembers to their new two-year terms including incumbents Craig Romey (Ward 1), Dave Burris (Ward 2) and Debra Johnston (Ward 4), along with newcomer Linda Varvel (Ward 3).
Bill Lukens was also elected President of the Council and Dave Burris was elected Vice President. No other nominations were given.
During his City Administrator Report, John Gregory said work has begun on repairing the concrete steps near the Episcopal Church and Kidney Springs. He said that new Dollar General “North”, located across from the Dollar Inn on the north end of town along Hwy. 385, has begun the building permit process.
Gregory also addressed the public discussion regarding the painting of crosswalks by the city. He said it was performed last year by the city beginning on July 6 and completed July 21. He said the city is looking at getting some contractor assistance to help with that this year, due to shortages of staff and other ongoing city projects. He also added that Evans Plunge has been able to gain enough lifeguard help to be able to open the outdoor pool and the facility hopes to continue keeping that pool open the remainder of the season.