The Wentzville Board of Aldermen, divided on the issue of lifting the city’s ban on personal fireworks, hoped that a survey of resident opinion would give them a clearer direction. But instead, the survey has shown just about the same division of opinion as the board itself.
Last month, the board heard the first reading of a new ordinance that would allow residents to shoot off personal fireworks (with some restrictions) on July 4 from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Those terms were a compromise spearheaded by Alderman Sonya Shryock, who was in favor of allowing fireworks but objected to the original bill which would have allowed fireworks on July 3, 4, and 5.
“I will not vote for three days,” Shryock said.
Aldermen Robert Hussey and Michael Rhoades supported the original 3-day bill, but agreed to Shryock’s compromise.
Aldermen Matt Swanson and Linda Wright were adamantly opposed to any change to the fireworks ban. Alderman Cheryl Kross supported the compromise, but asked for more input before a final vote, and city staff then offered to implement the polls.
The city used three tools to survey residents: an online SurveyMonkey survey, reverse 911 calls, and calls from residents. Those surveys together got a 49 percent response in favor of maintaining the current ban, and 51 percent for the new ordinance allowing fireworks for one day.
Since SurveyMonkey can’t filter out non-residents, the city then figured the totals of just the reverse 911 calls and regular calls from residents. That gave a slightly bigger lead to the pro-fireworks group at 56 percent.
Even if all the SurveyMonkey responses came from residents, the total of 2,946 responses still represents less than 10 percent of the city’s population.
“The board was hoping for more data, even though it’s not perfect data,” said City Administrator Bob Bartolotta. “But it’s pretty much a dead heat.”
During discussion, Mayor Nick Guccione stated his opposition to removing the city’s fireworks ban. Should the new ordinance pass, Guccione said, “This might be my first veto.”