By Tammy Moore Teague
If you’ve attended a Mansfield Tiger football game at home this year, you might have noticed some fireworks. Those Fourth of July displays explode into the air each time the Tigers score, or at the game’s kickoff. Not everyone has been happy about the spirited display, however.
Mansfield native, Jason Baggett, felt it was time to level-up the pride for the school and the fans by bringing the boom to home games. For the season opener, the fireworks were shot off at the west end of the football field near the baseball fields. “The element of fireworks was thought to assist in the overall experience of the game and celebrate scores, and the potential of a win,” stated Baggett. This is when the real fireworks started.
Following the season opener, neighboring resident Ken Hearn complained that the fireworks endangered the welfare and well-being of his horses. And, he pointed out that shooting fireworks within the city limits was illegal. Per Mansfield City ordinance, 86-4, this was a valid complaint.
Under this ordinance, every Fourth of July celebration held within the city limits has been done so against the ordinance and held potential for fines. Hearn confirmed that he was accustomed to the annual event. “I can tolerate it one night a year,” Hearn stated. On the holiday, he takes measures to ensure the horses safety by bringing them in from pasture. “I just don’t want my horses torn up,” added Hearn.
Mansfield Mayor Mike Gipson said initially Hearn was correct. “We couldn’t legally shoot fireworks in the City of Mansfield. We stopped that. I called the school and told them and the police, we’re not doing it and everyone understood. Jason went to work on this and wanted to do it right.”
“I personally contacted every person who might need to know, or have a say in us shooting fireworks at football games,” stated Baggett. Those people included Mansfield Mayor Mike Gipson, Mansfield Police Chief Boyd Farmer, Mansfield Fire Chief Steven Haysmer and the Arkansas State Police Fire Marshall. “We followed the process and did what was asked, and required.”
Baggett believed he found a work around that would alleviate all issues until the permit was granted. “I didn’t want the school, the city or any one to be put in a bad situation. So we found an alternative method,” added Baggett. “The ordinance stated ‘INSIDE CITY LIMITS’ with some specific elements. So, we obtained permission from the nearest point outside the city limits, close to the stadium, and continued to shoot the fireworks.”
Hearn was content with the distant location. “I asked them to move it or calm it down,” he added. “At least when it was there it didn’t rattle my windows.”
After researching the necessary avenues to legalize the fireworks, Baggett felt confident that the issues had been resolved. “Notarized paperwork had to be filed, and the Arkansas State Police Fire Marshal got involved. Everyone understood our point, and even recognized the amount of work we were putting into this for it to continue in a safe and respectful manner” stated Baggett.
Gipson agreed, stating “we followed the law and applied for and now have a permit. Our attorney was sick, but we had another attorney draw up the paperwork for the City of Mansfield. I signed off on it, and so did the Fire Chief Stephen Haysmer. We went through the proper procedure.”
Once every element was finalized, Baggett moved the fireworks closer to Tiger Stadium for the final home game. Despite the legal action taken by Baggett, Hearn contends that display is unlawful. “I sat down with the mayor and he told me the city attorney would call me,” explained Hearn. “He never called. I’ve tried to be reasonable, and I don’t want to, but the next step is to have people hauled off. They are stepping all over me and I’m just asking for them to calm them down. What they are doing is not legal.”
However, Baggett contends “the community, parents and kids have worked hard to bring back pride to the school, and the town. This is a battle I will face head on in support of our Tigers.”
By Tammy Moore Teague