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Willmar, Minn., City Council sends bow and arrow ordinance back to committee

WILLMAR -- The Willmar City Council voted 7-1 Monday night to send back to committee an ordinance amendment that would regulate shooting a bow and arrow within the city limits.

The council approved a motion by Steve Ahmann to return the issue to the Public Works/Safety Committee after he expressed concerns for the safety of neighbors living next to archers who may shoot in their backyards.

The ordinance would require use of a backstop measuring at least 8 feet in height and 16 feet in width.

Police Chief David Wyffels who worked on drafting the amendment at the request of the committee said the whole idea behind the ordinance is to make sure that arrows do not fly through the backstop and hit somebody on the other side.

At the May 14 Public Works/Safety Committee meeting, Wyffels was directed to review current city ordinance relating to dangerous weapons and the use of a bow and arrow in city limits. Wyffels said cities have a wide range of regulations and some have no regulations.

He sought public comments and met with the local archery club, Little Crow Archers. City Attorney Robert Scott assisted on the proposed ordinance changes.

Two archers who spoke during a public hearing called by the council to consider the ordinance amendment said they do not shoot when neighbors are out in their yards.

Rick Schwantes said he did not agree with the backstop and said he does not shoot when neighbors are present. He said an indoor range is good for target shooting but was not good for hunting practice. He urged the council to forget about the issue.

Bruce Schriener also said he does not shoot when somebody is outside. He said room is needed to be able to get a quality shot.

"We try to keep it as safe as we can,'' he said, adding that not everyone "will have these huge backstops.''

Ahmann's motion was seconded by Ron Christianson who said he wanted to discuss shrinking the size of the backstop. He disagreed with Ahmann and said he believes shooting should be allowed in backyards. "The backstop is too big,'' Christianson said and he withdrew his second.

Denis Anderson then seconded the motion. He asked Ahmann why he wanted to refer the ordinance back to committee.

Ahmann said he was not feel comfortable being outside with someone who was discharging a dangerous weapon. He cited the death of a teenager shot with an arrow and he listed cities that have banned the use of bow and arrow within their limits.

Council members voting in support of the motion were Ahmann, Christianson, Anderson, Audrey Nelsen, Tim Johnson, Jim Dokken and Rick Fagerlie. Bruce DeBlieck voted against.

In other business the council accepted the $285,000 bid from Geislinger and Sons Inc., of Watkins for construction of the Sperryville lift station. Geislinger was the lowest of four companies that submitted bids. Substantial completion is expected by Dec. 15 and final completion will be in May 2014.

Also, the council ordered the removal of a structure at 944 Olaf Ave. N.W. The removal was recommended by the Community Development Committee. In his report to the council, committee chair Fagerlie said the property has deteriorated over the years and past attempts to have the property repaired or removed have been met without success.

The property was described as being in terrible condition and constituted a threat to health and safety.

In other business, the council set public hearings for Sept. 3 to consider assessing the costs of removing ice and snow, cutting of weeds or grass, and removal garbage against a total of 13 properties.

David Little
David Little covers the Willmar City Council, Willmar Municipal Utilities and other city news.
(320) 235-1150