As the longtime district attorney in Wyandotte County, Nick Tomasic spent his career making tough decisions in the name of public safety.
Now Tomasic is asking the leaders of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kan., to do the same about fireworks in the community.
On Wednesday, he called on the mayor and Unified Government commissioners to enact legislation regulating the sale and use of fireworks to bring Kansas City, Kan., in line with most of the other cities in the area.
“It sounded like a war zone here,” Tomasic said of last week’s Independence Day celebration.
Because it is one of only a few area cities that allow both the sale and use of most fireworks, people from all over the area take advantage of the lax law to create a days-long pall of smoke and noise for residents each year, Tomasic said.
In letters delivered Wednesday to the offices of county and city leaders, Tomasic, who retired as district attorney in 2005, called fireworks regulation a public safety issue that the Board of Commissioners should take action on, even if it is not politically popular.
“We elect them to make the tough decisions,” he said.
Tomasic has an ally in Carole Diehl, president of the Strawberry Hill Neighborhood Association, who has tried in the past to get city leaders to take action.
“We have a huge majority of people around here who are tired of it,” Diehl said.
A citizen survey conducted by the government in 2008 found that people were about evenly split on whether or not to toughen fireworks regulations, said former Kansas City, Kan., mayor Carol Marinovich.
And she noted that when she was in office, most of the fireworks-related complaints she received were for violations of laws already in place. Those include limited hours and dates for when fireworks can be used, no setting of fireworks on public streets and alleys and sidewalks, and a ban on items like bottle rockets and similar projectiles.
The city also has been a longtime bastion of fireworks stands that sprout up for a few days in late June and early July.
This year, 43 stands were licensed to operate in Kansas City, Kan., said Phillip Henderson, license administrator for the Unified Government.
The number fluctuates from year to year based largely on economic conditions, Henderson said.
The stands are strictly regulated and inspected for safety and to ensure they are not selling illegal fireworks “under the table,” he said.
To bolster his public safety argument, Tomasic included in his letters information he received from the University of Kansas Hospital, which treated 17 patients this year for fireworks-related injuries. Last year the hospital treated 38 people.
And those injuries don’t take into account the property damage and debris that has to be cleaned from streets and yards, he said.
Helen Skradski can attest to that. When she arrived at her funeral home after the holiday, she found that the finely manicured lawn was pockmarked with craters caused by some type of powerful explosives.
“I’m going to have it resodded or seeded,” she said. “It’s just awful.”