SALISBURY – The City Council voted to deny funds to the first fireworks display in Salisbury in the last six years, saying there other places for the money to go.
On Tuesday evening, the Salisbury City Council voted 4-1 not to participate in helping fund Red, White, and Boom, which proposes to return 4th of July Fireworks to Salisbury after having none for the past six years.
The fireworks will be held at the Salisbury University Athletic Complex beginning at dark and it is a $20,000 display, featuring fireworks exploding 600 feet in the air above the Salisbury University athletic fields. The event also includes, “American Avenue”, held on Wayne Street behind Sea Stadium, opening at 6:30 p.m. and will include vendors, kids’ activities and music.
The ordinance on the table in first reading involved a budget amendment to fiscal year 2012 to appropriate funds, $5,000, for contribution to support Red, White, and Boom fireworks Display.
According to the ordinance, a committee of citizens has organized the event to celebrate the nation’s Independence Day this year, and it has been a number of years since July 4 fireworks display has taken place in Salisbury. A number of businesses, institutions and individuals are supporting the event in both cash and in-kind contributions. It is important to the city to join with other supporters of the community to express their appreciation for the efforts of the citizens to stage the celebration, the ordinance states.
“We do not have funding for two years,” Mike Dunn of Red, White, and Boom said. “Our goal as a committee when we formed this is to try to pay for the fireworks for this year and for the second year also.”
The proposal to contribute $5,000 to the event came from Mayor Jim Ireton during a Chamber of Commerce presentation, in which the mayor said he would request a budget amendment to the City Council in order to do so.
“I love fireworks, but I am not sure that it is the goal of the city to cut a check for them,” Council Vice President Deborah Campbell said. “We are already providing support services … I will write a check myself but I don’t think this should come out of the public treasury and the council has been put in a position where we are being asked to approve budget amendments that takes funds from the surplus.”
Councilman Tim Spies said the budget today is tighter than it was when the fireworks budget item was first taken out. He added that $5,000 is 1,400 gallons of gas for the public works, police and fire departments as well as 500 man hours of a lesser paid employee or 250 pairs of safety shoes that some employees are keeping together with duct tape.
“I am the first one saluting when the fireworks go out … I sincerely hope that they can keep up with those efforts and do the same thing next year and in the succeeding year, and with that I think when people see the success rate with it they will open their pockets a little wider and dig a little deeper,” Spies said. “I think fireworks are important, yes, but considering the times we’re in I think we need to put them aside, as far as these taxpayers dollars.”
Councilwoman Eugenie Shields did not agree and felt that 4th of July fireworks are an activity that families in the community can enjoy.
“I just sit here and listen to what we cannot do in Salisbury … I think that it is disheartening that we as a community can’t provide free fun for our families,” she said.
On Wednesday, Mayor Jim Ireton released a response to the council’s decision not to contribute funds to the fireworks display.
"Votes such as last evening’s rejection of 5,000 to participate in Red, White and Boom diminish us as a community. We strive to attract new residents and create memories that contribute to our sense of place and our sense of history in our city. What better time to do that than on the celebration of our nation on July 4th? City Council chose to reject even the simplest of gesture to the event committee, to the many donors, and to the host, SU. A 5K contribution represents One-one hundredth of our entire City budget, and one-two hundredths of the City’s general fund budget. This vote is reminiscent of the votes against Urban Salisbury – and all of the damage it did to those who have worked so hard downtown. This vote leaves a terrible taste in the mouths of the community. I am embarrassed for us, but continue to pledge the support of our city for the Red, White and Boom event,” said Ireton.