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Fireworks, absent councilman heat up council meeting

Posted 7/13/11 (Wed)

By Neal A. Shipman
Farmer Editor

Fireworks were definitely on the minds of Watford City council members during their July 5 meeting as the council, along with the city’s police chief and fire chief shared their thoughts on whether or not the city should consider banning fireworks in the future.
While the shooting off of fireworks by city residents usually creates issues between neighbors and problems for local law enforcement officials, a fire that destroyed a home this 4th of July, drove home the dangerous nature of fireworks.
“The fire that destroyed a house has opened a lot of people’s eyes,” stated Brent Sanford, Watford City mayor. “We’re seeing massive amounts of fireworks being discharged within the city limits and some of the fireworks being shot off are huge.”
While the city council did not recommend banning the shooting off of fireworks within the city limits, Ben Weltikol, fire chief, and Slade Herfindahl, police chief, believe that is something that the city needs to consider.
“I have completed my accident report on the house fire,” stated Weltikol. “The report will show that it was an accidental fire. We know that it wasn’t electrical. While it is very difficult to prove that the fire was started because of fireworks, that is what we are assuming caused the fire. But I’m not saying fireworks are to blame.”
According to Weltikol, many cities in North Dakota already ban the shooting of fireworks within city limits and he believes that the Watford City City Council needs to look at such a ban.
Herfindahl also feels a ban is needed because of the size of the fireworks being shot off as well as people not following the city’s ordinances.
“The issue that we saw this year is that entire neighborhoods were up in arms about the size and quantity of the fireworks being shot off by certain individuals,” stated Herfindahl. “Plus people just aren’t following the ordinances that specify the days and hours that fireworks can be discharged.”
But fireworks weren’t the only issue that had council members upset and Council Member Deanne Valenzuela expressed her disappointment with the continued absence of Councilman Bruce Erickson from city council meetings.
“We need to do whatever we can do to find a replacement for Bruce Erickson,” stated Valenzuela. “He hasn’t attended a city council meeting for over a year.”
According to Valenzuela, his absence is not only unfair to the city’s residents but is also unfair to the other council members.
“We’re (the council members) putting in a lot of time in committee meetings and at the council meetings and we need to have him here.”
But according to Mayor Sanford and Wyatt Voll, city attorney, the council cannot simply replace a councilman who does not attend the meetings.
 “We can’t just fire a city council member,” stated Sanford. “It’s up to the voters.”
According to Sanford, he has spoken to city residents from the area of town that Erickson was elected to serve, but there didn’t seem to be much interest in their doing anything about it.
“A council member can only be removed by resignation or by a recall by the voters,” stated Voll.
When Valenzuela asked Voll if the council could ask him to resign, it was Voll’s recommendation that Erickson could be asked unofficially by any other council member to resign but that request could not be made by the council officially.
While Erickson’s absence from meetings was Valenzuela’s primary concern, so was his receiving his monthly compensation even though he wasn’t attending any meetings.
“He shouldn’t be paid if he isn’t attending the meetings,” stated Valenzuela. “There should be a slap on his hands.”
But according to Voll, unless the council changes its ordinances dealing with compensation of council members, Erickson is entitled to his monthly pay whether or not he attends meetings.
In other business, the city council:
• Approved a request from the Watford City Area Chamber of Commerce Ribfest Committee to close off Main Street and to allow alcohol sales on the sidewalk for the Aug. 12 event provided no glass bottles would be allowed on Main Street and the committee would clean Main Street by 2 a.m.
• Approved a Roughrider Fund grant of $24,000 to the NW Dakota Public Transit to provide a taxi service in Watford City and a $75,000 grant to the Watford City Park District to improve city parks.
• Went over options with Kirk Wold and Tammy Wilson on removing of their man camp facility which is located next to the elementary school.
• Approved the promotion and salary increase for Troy White Owl as police sergeant.
• Approved a request by the Watford City Police Dept. to purchase a new base station radio for an estimated $3,500.
• Was updated on the city’s Insurance Reserve Fund coverage by Jody Renbarger of West Plains Insurance.
• Was updated on Jeff Dodd’s plans to build a new building on the corner of Park Avenue and Main Street.
• Was informed by Erik and Steve Stenehjem of their plans to develop subdivisions east and south of Watford City and their interest in requesting annexation of the property into the city limits.
• Approved the hiring of Brianna Allex as a VOE student at city hall for the coming school year.
• Approved the second and final reading of an ordinance regulating the keeping of wild animals within city limits.
• Approved the second reading of an ordinance annexing the Sundeen Addition into the city limits.
• Approved a raffle permit for the Wolves Booster Club.
• Approved the first reading of an ordinance annexing property owned by Cary and Darlene Garmann into the city limits.
• Approved Mayor Sanford’s appointments of Luke Taylor to the Airport Authority to July 1, 2015; Justin Smith to the Safety Committee to June 30, 2012; Curt Moen to the Safety Committee to June 30, 2012; Justin Smith as the Risk Management Officer to May 1, 2012; and Caralynn Olson to the McKenzie County Library Board.
• Was informed by Wyatt Voll, city attorney, that unless the city changes its liquor licensing ordinances, the city will not be able to issue a liquor license to Cary and Darlene Garmannn for their new restaurant and bar.
• Was informed by Curt Moen that the design work has been done to relocate the water salesman from its current location to an area on the fairgrounds and that the proposal is being reviewed by the fair board.
• Was informed by Curt Moen that he is developing a street naming ordinance that will apply to all new subdivisions.
• Was informed by Justin Smith that the city’s water system could see peaking issues from increased residential use and water sales at the water salesman. He also stated that the current lagoon system could become overloaded which would create odor issues.