City Council has decisions on fire pits, texting, more

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Farm Forum

Aberdeen’s City Council has been busy lately with some interesting topics. Let’s weigh in on some at the front of the council’s mind.

FIRE PITS: Fire safety is important all year round, but it may be more pressing in the summer months, when grills and fire pits are running hot.

The council is considering changes to a fire protection and prevention ordinance. Aberdeen Fire and Rescue Chief Kevin Van Meter would like to see the ordinance clarified to say all fires would have to be 20 feet from a structure, even when it is in a container.

The ordinance now says no fire may be started or maintained within 20 feet of any structure unless contained in a fireplace.

Let’s all peek into our city backyards and see where our pits are. It’s hard to keep 20 feet from any structure: Move away from your house, and you might be on top of your neighbor’s garage.

By the proposed wording, it seems even having a grill near the back deck would be wrong.

We urge the council to be cautious in the wording and be specific about how far a fire needs to be from a structure — and clearly define a “container.”

LONG BOARDS: It makes sense to ban skateboards downtown — well, at least skateboard behavior. Skateboarders can do amazing tricks with a wood deck, trucks and four wheels. But those tricks can damage planters, benches, railings and other Main Street fixtures.

Long boards are skateboards in that they are ridden in the same way. However, the longer deck — more than 4 feet and sometimes 5 feet long — makes them perfect for travel, not tricks.

Some longboard enthusiasts want the boards exempted from the downtown ban. We’d like to see the council exempt the longboards — unless they become a problem. We want to see life on Main Street, and if allowing this mode of transportation helps attract a younger crowd, give it a try. Main Street shouldn’t be defined by what isn’t allowed.

BOYS AND GIRLS CLUB: The club needs a new building. A capital campaign has been going on for a couple of years to raise the $5 million needed for a new facility adjacent to its current site at 1111 First Ave. S.E.

The club is asking the city to offer $1.5 million to finish the project. Mayor Mike Levsen said City Manager Lynn Lander might or might not add that item into the city’s proposed budget for next year.

The Boys and Girls Club of Aberdeen Area has done a good job raising funds and sticking with a project. It is tough when there are so many other worthwhile causes that also need time and money.

While we think the city should be cautious in how much it gives to any one group, the club is a worthwhile endeavor. Maybe the club’s request of the council will spark the private funds necessary to help the club reach its goal once and for all.

TEXTING AND DRIVING: We have said it, time and time again: Ban texting while driving. Join the growing number of cities across South Dakota and the country putting safety before concerns about “how will we ever enforce this?”

— American News editorial board