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Council votes 7-1 to prohibit fireworks until Nov. 1 and extend state of emergency declaration

PMG FILE PHOTO - The Newberg City Council voted 7-1 last week to continue a ban on fireworks use by private citizens until Nov. 1, but excluded fireworks shows put on by professionals, including last weekend's show that was part of the Old Fashioned Festival.

Anyone hoping to celebrate Labor Day, a birthday or an outdoor event with the ignition of fireworks within the city limits of Newberg should think again.

Citing continued warm weather and high danger of wildfires, the Newberg City Council has extended a ban on fireworks, first initiated on July 2 and revisited at the July 19 council meeting, to Nov. 1. The council also voted to extend the state of emergency it declared in conjunction with the ban.

Implementation of the ban in early July had the intended results of curbing possible wildfires, officials said.

"What I can say is we are very happy with the results from (the July Fourth weekend)," said Chief Allen Kennedy of the Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue District, adding that the agency didn't have to dispatch any additional personnel. "We had no fireworks-related fires in Newberg or the surrounding area. Throughout the fire district we had nine fires and, as significantly, zero property damage from those nine fires. (That's) compared to 2020, where we had 15 fireworks-related fires and about $150,000 worth of damage, so we're all too happy with how it went."

Kennedy had advised the council on July 2 that the district was urging people to refrain from using fireworks in light of recent dry weather and the wildfires that hit the region in September, including one TVF&R personnel fought for days on Bald Peak.

Newberg-Dundee Police Department Capt. Cameron Ferguson told the council via Zoom that the department received about 54 calls on the Fourth of July from people complaining about fireworks, an improvement over previous years.

"I would say our calls were definitely down …," he said.

Councilor Stephanie Findley praised city staff's quick action to get the word out after the council enacted the ban on July 2.

"I know the word got out really, really quickly and it sounds like the police department did a good job responding," she said, recognizing the efforts of city staff, social media, the chamber of commerce, Newberg Downtown Coalition and others for the effort.

Before bringing the issue to a vote, Mayor Rick Rogers asked Ferguson and Kennedy whether they were in favor of extending the ban.

"I absolutely would," Ferguson said. "There is just so much fuel on the ground."

Kennedy concurred, adding that extreme fire conditions have continued and predicted more treacherous days ahead. "(The fire danger) only grows throughout the summer," he said.

The council stopped short of banning fireworks shows by professional organizations, such as the outfit that staged the Old Fashioned Festival performance on Saturday at the former WestRock mill site on Wynooski Street. Kennedy advised the council that TVF&R is one of three organizations in the state that approves professional fireworks shows and they would be reviewing preparations for the Old Fashioned show as well.

City to buy mill land for water treatment plant expansion

At its July 19 meeting the council also authorized the purchase of 4.28 acres of land adjacent to its water treatment plant and within the confines of the WestRock mill site. The city will purchase the land for $457,755 and the parcel will be used to expand the plant's water treatment ability. Funds for the purchase were included in the city's annual budget and will be recompensed by city water rates.

The city took the action, according to the council packet, in order to enlarge the treatment plant to accommodate additional sources of water and the city's future water supply needs. The city began several years ago attempting to address "supply vulnerability and long-term water resiliency" by looking for additional sources of water.

The water treatment plant was sited within the confines of the mill site many years ago and will remain when the mill site undergoes redevelopment after the mill was closed in 2016 and the land sold to a development company earlier this year.

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