The annual Springfield 4th of July fireworks show may not get off the ground this year.
Council members voted Tuesday not to approve the contract with Falcon Fireworks for the 2013 show, citing the amount of expense the city bears as too much.
The price tag for the show itself is $15,000, and the security and other expenses drive the cost of the show up to nearly $18,000.
Council member Steve Shealy said with the city’s recent action to increase fees on its residents, he couldn’t support spending what could be several thousand dollars to stage the fireworks show.
“I am opposed to the city paying anything for fireworks. I love fireworks. I love eating at Ruth’s Chris restaurant also. I can’t eat at Ruth’s Chris restaurant all the time, especially in a season when everyone is experiencing increases in taxes from the federal standpoint and increases in fees from a city standpoint.
“I think we need to be better stewards of our money,” he continued. “If it costs the city an extra penny, I can’t support that.”
Mayor Barton Alderman said he’s been a longtime supporter of the fireworks show. But he wondered how much benefit the city gained from staging the annual event.
“If you go out and ask somebody from south Guyton or Clyo, it’s county fireworks,” he said. “That’s the impression I get, that people think it’s county fireworks. I don’t see that Springfield gets as much credit for it as we deserve.”
Council member Kenny Usher said he realizes the cost is onerous for the city. But he also believes hosting the fireworks helps the city.
“I do believe it puts the city in a good light and is good advertisement for the city,” he said. “I think it casts the city in a good light. We have people who expect this.”
Council members expressed their appreciation of the crowds that have come out over the years and for the fireworks show’s quality. But the continued expense may be too much for the city to bear. Last year, the city took in $8,170 in donations, even with admittedly getting a late start in its push, but spent more than $8,200 from its own coffers to cover the cost.
Alderman said the city could put the money toward other events that bring people into its downtown, such as the fall festival. Bennett added there will be expenses with the Mars Theatre restoration this year.
Shealy said he didn’t see a return on the city’s investment in the fireworks. With the city’s growth stagnant, he favored waiting until fiscal conditions improved.
“I know what we went through in the budget process,” he said. “We couldn’t do all the things that were on a wish list because of money. We are increasing fees. People are hurting.”
The city received a grant from Liberty Mutual, as part of that company’s “Bring Back the Fourth” initiative, for two years, each time for $10,000. The grant, however, was not available last year, and council member Troy Allen said he didn’t know if it would be offered again this year.
The city spent more than $5,000 beyond the fireworks in 2010 and received nearly $8,800 in donations. The city covered the remaining $1,526.
“In 2010, when we first got the grant, we went a little above and beyond what we normally do with advertising and trying to get the public involved,” Bennett said.
Bennett said Brent Fisher of Falcon Fireworks hoped to get something with the city ironed out soon so he could plan his year.
Springfield also considered other sites to hold the fireworks show, which has been held at Effingham County High School. A test-fire at the Fairgrounds, however, meant the show would be limited to 4-inch shells, instead of the 10-inch shells normally used at ECHS.
“It is significantly smaller,” Bennett said of the projectiles. “It was noticeably less extravagant. People who have been going out there for years will be disappointed.”