City agrees to pay for July 4 fireworks show

DOWNEY - This July 4, Downey residents will have an opportunity to celebrate the birth of our nation while staying safe and perhaps saving money.A mostly apprehensive City Council agreed Tuesday to sponsor a Fourth of July fireworks show and festival at the Discovery Sports Complex. The vote was 4-1, with Mayor Pro Tem Anne Bayer dissenting due to the event's $50,000 price tag. Mayor Mario Guerra, who introduced the idea of a city-sponsored fireworks display two weeks ago, said a community event like this could help prevent house fires and burn injuries. Calls for emergency services, which normally spike July 4, could also be reduced, he said. "If [the fireworks show] saves one fire, if it saves one boy from burning his hand, what's that worth?" Guerra said. Councilmen David Gafin and Roger Brossmer said they wouldn't normally support spending $50,000 on a fireworks display, but made an exception because the event would also serve as the grand opening of the Discovery Sports Complex, Downey's first park in 35 years. Councilman Luis Marquez also supported the show, on the caveat that city staff "aggressively pursue sponsorships." The Optimist Club of Downey has already committed $1,000 in donations, said Mark Sauter, deputy city manager of emergency preparedness. Other service organizations and businesses also seemed willing to contribute, he said. Bayer cast the lone dissenting vote. "I like parties, but $50,000 is a little exorbitant for a party," she said. Bayer also questioned whether the city had adequate time to coordinate such a large event on relatively short notice. The daylong festival will include food and game booths, athletic competitions by youth sports teams, family entertainment and music, and a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new park. The event will culminate with the fireworks display at 9 p.m. The festival and fireworks display are free. Cost breakdown The city will pay $30,000 to Pyro Spectacular for a 25-minute fireworks display. Based in Rialto, Pyro Spectacular provided fireworks for the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens and the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah. They are also the company that provides fireworks for Disneyland and Knott's Berry Farm. The rest of the costs include $8,000 for Community Services staffing; $3,500 for booths, games and activities; $2,000 for police staffing; $1,500 for fire department staffing; $1,500 for Physical Services staffing; $1,500 for sanitation services; $1,000 for a cooling facility; and $1,000 for a sound system. The festival will be a daylong event, free to the community. The 11-acre Discovery Sports Complex is at 12400 Clark Ave., behind the Columbia Memorial Space Center. Community input Speaking at Tuesday's City Council meeting, Downey residents expressed mixed feelings on the event. Resident Chuck Anna had fond memories of Warren High School's Fourth of July carnival and fireworks show, but said $50,000 "seems a bit extravagant." "Fifty-thousand dollars is a drop in the bucket, but the bucket's getting kind of empty," he said. John Lacy, a "fiscal conservative" by his own admission, noted the turmoil currently plaguing local, state and federal economies. "I would cast a no vote," he said. Finally, Richard Pridham questioned just how 'green' a fireworks show could be. The city established a Green Task Force last month.

********** Published: May 29, 2009 - Volume 8 - Issue 6