OURAY – City residents David Koch and his wife Kathryn attended the Ouray City Council meeting on Monday, June 18, to express their concern regarding personal use of fireworks in town over the upcoming July 4 holiday.
Koch related past July 4 incidents with neighborhood children lighting fireworks under a tree near his property, causing it to almost catch fire. He voiced frustration regarding the town’s recently updated fireworks policy, now consistent with a state statute outlawing the use of personal fireworks that fly into the air or explode.
On Thursday, June 14, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper issued an executive order banning open burning throughout the State of Colorado due to drought conditions. The order includes a blanket ban of all types of personal fireworks, not just those that fly into the air.
Concern was expressed at Monday’s council meeting about chasing away tourists, should law enforcement personnel be too aggressive in enforcing the fireworks ban.
“People will understand,” Koch said. “You would have to be an idiot to light a firework right now. But some still will.”
Ouray police officer Tony Schmidt said that he and his fellow officers will confiscate fireworks upon detection, and that repeat offenders may be issued a citation.
“The problem is staff,” Schmidt said. “We’re out there dealing with traffic control, illegal fireworks, bar fights ... and we’re only four guys.”
City Administrator Patrick Rondinelli clarified that the police department does receive help from the Ouray County Sheriff’s Department over the July 4 holiday.
Council discussed strategies, including signage and flyer distribution informing the public that no personal fireworks whatsoever are permitted in Ouray this year.
Koch noted that there is a perception that Ouray is lenient in enforcing its fireworks policy. “People say, we love to go to Ouray on the Fourth, because we can do anything,” he told council. “I think we have some real issues here in this town. We’re not confrontational people, but when we approached our neighbors last year [about their use of illegal fireworks], they laughed.”
At this point, the statewide fireworks ban does not apply to public fireworks displays; the Ouray Volunteer Fire Department is still planning its annual July 4 fireworks show, complete with precautions that include thoroughly wetting down the hillside surrounding the fireworks launch site for several days prior to the holiday.
Council held a work session Tuesday to further discuss the matter and formulate a plan surrounding fireworks for the upcoming July 4 festivities.
Bump(s) in the road
Ouray resident John Nixon appeared at the council meeting on Monday evening to voice a complaint about the new speed bumps which have recently appeared on lower Second Street (which terminates at the southern end of Oak Street near Nixon’s house), and asked council why they had been installed.
City Administrator Patrick Rondinelli said that the three hotels along the street had requested that the city put in speed bumps because of the volume of pedestrians along the street – and problems with speeding traffic. (Second Street is one of the only side streets in Ouray that is paved.)
“People fly up and down that street,” Mayor Risch observed. “Our objective is to slow them down.”
Nixon pointed out that the speed limit on side streets in Ouray is 15 miles per hour, and that the new speed bumps necessitate slowing down to a near halt. He said that the speed bumps are already changing traffic patterns in the neighborhood.
“I have seen people drive out of their way to avoid them,” he said.
A better way to deal with the problem, he suggested, would be to enforce the city ordinance requiring all property owners to install and maintain sidewalks where their property interfaces with city streets, so that pedestrians would have a safe place to walk.
The city is also poised to install speed bumps along north Oak Street as it passes by the 4-J Trailer Park – another place prone to speeding traffic. “It is just one more attempt to find a solution to a problem for which there is no solution,” Mayor Risch said.
Street waterer hired
The City of Ouray has hired a street waterer who will work 20 hours per week for one to two months during the remainder of the summer season, to mitigate dust levels in town. In the past, the city has applied magnesium chloride to its gravel streets in the summer to control dust, but this year, council elected to forego the annual treatment as a cost-saving measure.
Ice Park business
The city is in the process of renewing its concessionaire agreement with San Juan Mountain Guides and operating agreement with Ouray Ice Park, Inc., for the Ouray Ice Park. Community Development Coordinator Ann Morganthayler noted in a memo to council that the city has recently received an inquiry to place a zip line in the Ice Park, but added that ziplines are currently not a permitted use in the park.
Box Cañon gets septic, not sewer
Council approved, on a 4-1 vote, a contract for a septic system at Box Cañon Park, with the bid awarded to Hinkson Development Corp. and Morss Construction, Inc. The project is associated with an ongoing municipal endeavor to install a second water tank with a new water main running along the Box Cañon road. The city decided to take advantage of the opportunity to upgrade the water and sewer service lines to the visitor center at Box Canon Park to enable the center to be open year round. But when a price tag to install a new sewer line came in at over $90,000, staff recommended opting for a cheaper septic system instead. Councilman John Ferguson cast the lone dissenting vote, expressing concern that a septic system was not a good long-term solution to the problem.