A firework bursts above a bonfire at Mill Bay Beach just after midnight Jan. 1, 2014. (James Brooks photo)

A proposal to prohibit fireworks use at Mill Bay Beach failed at Thursday’s meeting of the Kodiak Island Borough Assembly after a tie-breaking vote by Borough Mayor Dan Rohrer.

The vote, which means fireworks regulations in Kodiak will remain unchanged, comes after more than a month of deliberation and public comment on the matter.

Assembly Members Dennis Symmons, James Turner and Rebecca Skinner voted in favor of the prohibition, while Assembly Members Scott Arndt, Julie Kavanaugh and Scott Smiley voted against the prohibition. Assembly Member Andy Shroeder was absent due to personal leave.

Rohrer broke the tie, voting “no.”

“I think there’s a better long-term solution,” Rohrer said.

Currently, fireworks use and sales are allowed in Kodiak between June 15 and July 15, and between Dec. 26 and Jan. 1.

“One of the things that I think would be interesting is if we had a rule that said, OK, they’re allowed for a longer period of time, but you can’t shoot them out past midnight,” Rohrer said. “That would improve a lot of people’s quality of life, because you can at least get a decent night’s sleep.”

The motion to ban fireworks on Mill Bay Beach was brought forward on Aug. 1 by Skinner, who said the vast majority of fireworks-related complaints come from residents of the Mill Bay Beach area.

Public comment on Thursday reflected both support for and opposition to the proposed ordinance.

“I just think it’s kind of ridiculous to prohibit fireworks on a beach,” said Kodiak resident Michael Nelson, who opposed the ordinance, noting that fireworks users may find less-convenient locations to use fireworks if they are banned on Mill Bay Beach. 

Nelson said that when people buy a house by the beach, they should expect the sound of fireworks.

Kodiak resident Joanne Shaker spoke in favor of the prohibition, saying the fireworks keep her up at night.

“I can’t take fireworks starting at 1 in the morning and going to 4 in the morning. I mean, my sleep is important to me,” she said. “This is a borough problem. Limiting the sales and use of the fireworks — that needs to be done, whether you close Mill Bay Beach or not.”

KIB building official Ted Hansen spoke at Thursday’s meeting, admonishing the assembly for discussing an ordinance without addressing the lack of enforcement options.

“What I’m against is the borough simply making another law that has absolutely no enforcement,” Hansen said.

The borough code enforcement officer position is vacant following the retirement earlier this summer of the previous officer. Moreover, the Borough Assembly recently discussed the lack of mechanism to issue tickets and fines to those who do not follow borough code.

“If we’re going to hire a borough sheriff to enforce it, or we’re going to have an enforcement officer that works after hours that enforces it, then I’m all for it,” Hansen said. “But it makes no sense because we continue to make laws that do not have any enforcement and it’s a waste of time and people just ignore it.”

During the meeting, assembly members voted down an alternative ordinance proposed by Turner, who proposed changing the allowed fireworks dates from between June 15 and July 15, to between July 1 and July 5. His proposal also would have limited fireworks use to between the hours of 9 a.m. and midnight and added a section prohibiting the use of aerial fireworks in residential areas.

“The biggest complaint that I hear is not necessarily where. It’s that we set (fireworks) off for an entire month,” Turner said, explaining his proposed amendment.

The motion failed 4-2, with assembly members Turner and Smiley the only ones voting in favor.

“I can’t buy into restricting it to five days,” Arndt said, noting that there are some years when July 1 through July 5 is foggy and visibility is too poor to enjoy fireworks.

Before the final vote on the ordinance, assembly members voted on an additional motion, by Arndt, to delay the vote 30 days.

“We need to come up with an alternative,” Arndt said, noting that banning fireworks on Mill Bay Beach without coming up with another location for fireworks use would be problematic.

Arndt’s motion failed to pass after a tie-breaking vote by the mayor. Smiley, Simmons and Arndt voted in favor of a 30-day delay, while Turner, Kavanaugh and Skinner voted against it.

“I think as a member of the public, it becomes very wearing to keep track of items,” Rohrer said, explaining his decision to vote against a 30-day delay. “I would certainly like to see us make some more headway on this tonight.”

However, Smiley expressed concern over the lack of decision during Thursday’s meeting, saying, “If we can’t solve something tonight, it will come back and bite us again, I guarantee you.”

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