BERLIN – Town leaders abandoned plans to host New Year’s Eve fireworks and will instead plan for a July 2021 event.
On Monday, the Berlin Town Council voted unanimously to plan for fireworks on July 3, 2021. Though the town’s annual July 3 display was postponed earlier this year with hopes it could be held this fall or winter, officials decided it would be too difficult to host the event under current COVID-19 guidelines.
“Fireworks itself without the pandemic is going to be difficult,” Police Chief Arnold Downing said. “With it, it’s going to be very difficult.”
Ivy Wells, the town’s economic and community development director, presented the council with three options on Monday. She said the town had already paid a $5,000 deposit on its usual $10,000 show and that the town could pay the remaining $5,000 to host a show Dec. 31. She said the other options were to forfeit the $5,000 deposit and stop hosting fireworks or the town could have 50% of its 2020 deposit applied to a show for July 3, 2021. While Wells reported that the fire marshal would issue a permit for a Dec. 31 show, the Worcester County Health Department would require a map of the location layout and a plan for viewers, who would have to maintain social distance.
Downing said he’d spoken with Worcester County Health Officer Becky Jones regarding fireworks. He said she advised that the plan would have to go to the state and county fire marshal for approval.
“If everything is as it is today it’s a definite no in her opinion,” Downing said. “It is a lot of things we would actually have to go over it’s not only the actual people and location, it’s about flow, ingress and egress on our side. In discussing this on our side we know that we as a police department wouldn’t be able to handle it ourselves.”
He said part of the problem was the proposed location at the Northern Worcester Athletic Complex. In years past, fireworks have been held at Heron Park and police were able to control traffic smoothly. Downing said it would be harder near the ballfields. He added that Jones also cautioned against holding the event.
“She made the statement if she had her druthers she’d rather not…,” Downing said. “They don’t have a right to really refuse us but they do have the right to tell us we have to fix these things with the plan.”
Town Administrator Jeff Fleetwood said he did not recommend doing a Dec. 31 show because the plan submitted to the health department would have to be enforced.
“I think it’s unrealistic that it could be enforced because we don’t know what size crowd,” he said.
“If we’re the only show in town everybody’s going to come here,” he said.
The council voted unanimously to plan for a July 3, 2021 fireworks display.