Supporters of “safe and sane” fireworks succeeded once again as the Lompoc City Council voted this week to allow fireworks with some changed rules.
Tuesday’s vote came after a presentation by Fire Chief Kurt Latipow on behalf of the Lompoc Fire Department and Lompoc Police Department. Though both departments still recommended against legalizing safe and sane fireworks, Latipow said the report was a compromise and suggested ways to improve law enforcement for the next July 4 holiday.
Recommendations in the report include allowing block parties that require permits and letting people discharge fireworks in Ryon Park, Johns-Manville Park, Thompson Park and Pioneer Park. The report also advised using an Old Town parking lot as a regulated place to discharge fireworks.
Latipow also said the Fire Department is looking at options to improve Lompoc’s professional fireworks show. It may be held on Saturday, July 5, this year, he said.
"We have … been working together to identify ways to enhance or bring back citizens’ participation, possibly by adjusting the dates,” he said. “Hopefully we can report back in the near future.”
The council initially intended to discuss the amendments to the fireworks code in October, but Interim City Administrator Teresa Gallavan delayed the discussion to Tuesday because of pending questions the council had in the staff report.
Most of the council members expressed gratitude to the Fire Department and Police Department for adding to the original staff report. Councilman Dirk Starbuck said that although he approved of the safe and sane fireworks, the last July 4 holiday seemed chaotic.
"It was way out of control,” Starbuck said. “Far worse than I have ever seen in Lompoc … with this plan, I think we will be able to get hands on it.”
But Councilman Bob Lingl said he did not like the Fire Department’s decision to add Ryon Park to a list of parks that may be used as a place to discharge fireworks.
“I think we are really disregarding what the community (near Ryon Park) has had to deal with these large events,” Lingl said. “Now they have to deal with fireworks.”
During public comment, Lompoc resident Karen Appeldorn said the fireworks ban should be reinstated and urged the council to take more time to consider the report.
"I think you should give it more time, and let people read what’s on the computer and read the new code section,” she said.
Lingl then called for a vote to prohibit safe and sane fireworks, but the vote failed 2-3, with Linn, Starbuck and Councilwoman Ashley Costa dissenting.
"For me, fireworks is a very patriotic thing and it is a celebration for me,” Costa said, explaining her reason for dissenting.
After a decision to remove Ryon Park from the list of parks that can be used to discharge safe and sane fireworks, the council voted 3-2 to implement the changes recommended by city staff and keep the fireworks legal. Lingl and Holmdahl dissented.
"I spent an hour and a half walking around town and I was absolutely amazed at the number of people who were out,” Linn said of last year’s holiday. “It was a huge social occasion in Lompoc. I’m happy we didn’t have injuries … I wasn’t happy that we had (illegal fireworks), but we’ll work on it.”
The City Council also approved a management agreement with Visit Lompoc, Inc. (VLI), an organization that will be created to carry out the purposes of the Lompoc Tourism Improvement District. The representative of VLI will be encouraged to join and wok with the city’s Economic Development Committee.