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Springfield considers dousing fireworks
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The Springfield City Council is considering if the annual fireworks will be held this year.

Mayor Barton Alderman said the council had authorized the city manger and city clerk to send out letters requesting donations for the event.

“To date, we’ve gotten $1,975 total,” Alderman said. “We sent out 100 letters. Fireworks are going to cost us around $15,000. For all the letters we sent, I think this is a drop in the bucket.”

City Manager Brett Bennett said the city has asked for money, and it’s almost time to start advertising.

“If council doesn’t want to fund this in the future in the significant fashion that it appears we’re going to fund it this year, then we may need to promote it as the final,” he said.

Council member Butch Kieffer said he doesn’t think the city should be obligated now to hold the event.

“We said before we weren’t going to spend all that money if no one else will participate, and there’s nothing wrong with sending that little bit of money back,” Kieffer said. “We’ve given everybody in this county equal opportunity to participate in it. They’ve made their statement, and as far as I’m concerned, you can forget the fireworks.”

Alderman said with the commitments so far Springfield would have to spend approximately $13,000.

Council member Kenny Usher said the city “carries the load of doing the right thing more times than not” and he thinks the July 4 celebration is a core celebration of “what being an American is.”

He read a letter from founding father John Adams that said the day would be celebrated with “pomp and parade” all over the continent.

“He had the foresight to know that these little colonies on the edge of the Atlantic coast were going to be a great country one day from the whole continent, and they took this thing serious,” Usher said. “I think this city ought to stand up and take the bull by the horns, and get back to what this country’s all about, because there are a lot of people who would love to have you forget what these people did, and what they endured to give birth to this country.”

He said he’s proud of the city for taking the “load on its shoulders” and that no residents have told him it was too much money to spend.

Council member Max Neidlinger said he doesn’t think “it’s a matter of any of us not being patriotic.”

Usher said the city should show its patriotism and residents have told him to continue holding the event.

“I question the commitment of other areas outside this city for not seeing the same thing,” Usher said.

Neidlinger said people do come out very early to celebrate, but “they are celebrating at the expense of the taxpayers of Springfield — all of it’s on their backs.”

Neidlinger noted the current global economic woes and said this may be an area the city should cut back.

“I support it — my name’s on this list, and I’m ready to write the check for it,” Alderman said. “I think it’s time those people step forward. I would love to see Springfield be able to do it, but with as tight as money is, think what the city can do with that $13,000.”

Usher said then “people forget what this country was founded upon, and people would love to see you forget” and see it as another day off.

According to Alderman, the fireworks show began in 1999 to celebrate the city’s bicentennial. Rincon canceled its parade that year, and the three cities and the county split the cost of the fireworks.

“It went on that same way for probably another three to four years,” the mayor said. “Then after some disputes, personality clashes between council members, mayors, county commissioners we had first one group then another drop out.”

He said last year Rincon helped provide security, but not donations from the other governmental bodies.

Guyton has committed $500 to the fireworks this year, Alderman said. Alderman said if any of the governmental agencies give money toward the event, they will be using tax money as well.

“I don’t have a problem with the county and the other municipalities not supporting it because they’re just like everybody else — they’re trying to watch tax payer money,” he said. “But I think we’ve got enough businesses and enough private citizens in the county if everybody just gave a little bit of money for something like this,” Alderman said.

He said of 100 letters sent out asking for donations, eight have committed to support the event.

Kieffer said that tells him that only 8 percent of the county is interesting in continuing the event.

Usher said the other members know how he feels, and it has been budgeted. Council member Troy Allen said not having the fireworks might be the way to generate the response to financially support the event. Council member Jeff Ambrose said he thinks this is a bad year not to have the event.

Hinely said no one has told him the city shouldn’t put on the event.

Travis Blankenship, a resident, suggested charging a dollar admission. Alderman said if admission was charged people would stay outside the gates to avoid paying.

Usher said he was unsure if they could charge admission because the event is held on Effingham Board of Education property at Effingham County High School.

Bennett said he has meetings with some of the bigger businesses in the county about funding for this event and will have more to tell the council after those meetings have taken place.

The city put a deadline of May 1 for pledges to contribute to the event and will discuss if the fireworks should be held further at the next council meeting.