Council agrees to help fund fireworks

BUCKHANNON – The city of Buckhannon’s Fourth of July fireworks show must – and will – go on.

That was the consensus of Buckhannon City Council Thursday at its meeting when it approved a last-minute amendment to a budget revision, calling for the city to donate $3,000 of the remaining $14,000 in its council capital outlay fund to pay for a fireworks display. The show is slated to take place on Friday, July 6 in conjunction with Festival Fridays.

The budget revision allocating the $3,000 line item had initially been passed during the “strategic issues” portion of the meeting, but discussion about it was revived during the council comments section of the meeting, when councilwoman Pam Cuppari, who heads a volunteer committee to raise money for fireworks and other holiday-related events, said she had no money in hand to pay for Fourth of July fireworks.

“Right now, we don’t even have half of what we need to send [as a deposit] for the fireworks,” Cuppari said. “Mr. (Mike) Cozad, though, has come up with $1,000 for us. Thank you very much.” Cozad is a community liaison for Atlantic Coast Pipeline and had just pledged the $1,000. Cuppari said in addition to ACP’s forthcoming donation, St. Gobain/Corhart Refractories had promised to give money for fireworks, but Cuppari was unsure of an amount.

“Right now, that’s all I have, and I just think it’s a shame with everything else going good in Buckhannon that we may not be able to have fireworks this year, and people expect that,” she said.

Councilman Robbie Skinner said he would personally invest $500 in a fireworks display and observed many residents and businesses are likely experiencing donor fatigue.

“I think our community is suffering from donor fatigue,” Skinner said. “We just had a Strawberry Festival we pulled off near the end with some funding.”

“People have mixed opinions about fireworks,” he added. “I’m of the opinion that it’s a quality of life issue. I remember what all the comments were a couple years ago when Buckhannon did not have a show. I think that hurts in the overall feeling of this community. We try to be a patriotic community and a celebratory community, and I think having a fireworks display kind of ties that together.”

Administrative and finance director Amberle Jenkins reminded council that because the general fund budget revision Resolution No. 2018-09 was on the agenda, council could allocate money for fireworks through that mechanism.

“You have a budget revision on your agenda tonight,” Jenkins told council. “It’s your decision on how you want that budget revision done.”

Mayor David McCauley said when the city did not sponsor fireworks in the past, the issue “became a sort spot” for the community. 

“When we didn’t have it, it became a sore spot,” he said. “I understand the mentality that, 10 or 15 minutes after, it’s done, and it’s like, ‘wow, why didn’t you spend that $5,000 on Stockert Youth Center.”

Cuppari, however, said it’s worth shelling out the money because the display often draws out-of-town visitors to Buckhannon who eat in downtown restaurants and frequent shops.

Skinner made a motion to amend the budget revision resolution to include a line item for $3,000 for fireworks, which was seconded by city recorder Colin Reger. 

Every council member except councilman David Thomas voted in favor of the amendment, which passed.

Following Thursday’s meeting, Thomas said he dissented because he thought there were better ways to spend that money.

“I just think there are so many other needs out there that are more important than fireworks,” Thomas said Sunday. “They last 15 or 20 minutes, and then they’re done and it’s over with. Also, where’s the county in something like this? We need to have a good discussion on what responsibilities does the city have and what responsibilities does the county have.”

Thomas noted his vote had nothing to do with his inability to see fireworks.

“I would have voted the same way if I had my vision,” he said. “I think it’s a waste of money.”


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