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Bismarck commissioners discuss fireworks ballot measure

Bismarck commissioners discuss fireworks ballot measure

Capitol fireworks

Fireworks filled a clear night sky as a finale to an Independence Day concert at the state Capitol in Bismarck in 2013. 

The Bismarck City Commission on Tuesday took steps toward possibly creating a ballot measure on legalizing fireworks in the city.

Mayor Steve Bakken at a June 14 meeting proposed legalizing fireworks within city limits. Bismarck voters banned them in 1988. Commissioner Nancy Guy in June said any decision on revoking the ban should not be made by the commissioners but by voters.

Bakken on Tuesday said that he wants the issue of potentially legalizing fireworks on the ballot because voters have not addressed the issue in 30 years. 

City Attorney Jannelle Combs asked the commissioners for direction on creating a ballot measure, including the wording of the measure and any limits on fireworks. Combs also said she would research the deadlines and cost for adding issues to the November ballot. The discussion was tabled until the next commission meeting.

Every commissioner on Tuesday said they received emails from residents on the matter. Bakken said nearly half of the messages he received were in favor of legalization. Other commissioners said the majority of the emails they received opposed legalizing fireworks. Guy said residents had approached her at a store asking her to keep fireworks illegal.

Police Chief Dave Draovitch and Fire Chief Joel Boespflug presented data about the number of service calls their departments receive because of fireworks.

Draovitch said that the number of calls his department gets about fireworks are comparable to those received by the police department in Mandan, where fireworks are legal. Bismarck police this year received 60 calls for service. Mandan police received 45 calls. Draovitch said most complaints in Mandan are fireworks being shot off after hours and debris from fireworks not being cleaned up.

Boespflug said that based on data from similar cities such as Mandan and West Fargo, the fire department would expect approximately nine fires a year due to legal fireworks. He told the commissioners that a safety campaign would be necessary to promote the proper use and storage of fireworks, and the city would need to implement safeguards to prevent fires in dry weather conditions.

Medieval Rush approved

The commission on Tuesday also approved a license for the Medieval Rush mud run. The event, held in New Salem in the past, will take place at the MDU Resources Community Bowl at Bismarck State College on Saturday, Aug. 1.

The license covers only land owned by the city that is being used for the race. Combs told commissioners she included a $25,000 bond in the agreement that would cover any damages that may occur to city land during the race.

The popular Middle Ages-themed event is in its ninth year. It involves hundreds of runners, some in costume, taking on an all-terrain 5K course -- about 3 miles -- filled with pits, areas of mud and numerous obstacles. It's billed as the longest mud run in North Dakota. The event is focused on entertainment rather than on competition, and also offers a kids run.


Reach Sam Nelson at 701-250-8264 or


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