City council issues $9,000 fireworks funding challenge
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – City council on Thursday issued a matching grant challenge to fund the Fourth of July fireworks display this summer, saying the city will contribute $9,000 if that same amount can be raised through private community donations.
But the time line to commit is tight, two weeks, and the dollar amount firm, since it will cost at least $18,000 to put on the traditional pyrotechnics show to celebrate the nation’s birthday.
“I’m amazed that my community, the town I grew up in, is asleep at the wheel on this,” said Councilman Stephen Bershenyi, who made the matching grant suggestion.
Council approved his motion 5-1.
Since the city put the word out through the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association late last month about the lack of funding for the July 4th fireworks, about $1,200 had been raised through private business donations.
“Let’s get with it, Glenwood,” Bershenyi said, noting that, for a city of 9,000 people, the challenge is a mere $1 per person.
He then dug into his pocket and pulled out a few bucks to throw into the kitty. Other council members and some citizens who were in attendance at the Thursday night meeting followed suit.
City council has made it clear that the city cannot fund the full cost of this year’s fireworks.
The fireworks have traditionally been funded from excess city accommodations tax dollars, beyond what the city budgets for tourism marketing and promotion efforts.
But with the downturn in the economy, that extra money hasn’t been available for the past two years. That leaves the city to consider using discretionary grant dollars, which are typically reserved for various human service needs.
Some council members were still hesitant to use any city funds for the fireworks, but went along with the matching grant idea.
“We don’t have the same luxury we had a few years ago,” Mayor Matt Steckler said. “It’s hard to argue that fireworks are a critical need.”
Beyond this year’s fireworks display, he and other council members said the city needs to come up with a long-term funding scheme to avoid having the same discussion every year.
Councilman Dave Sturges, who voted against Bershenyi’s motion, said he would like the city to consider imposing a special tax on tourist attractions to fund activities such as the fireworks.
“I’d like to put it out to the public and ask if people want an attractions tax,” he said. “It’s something that’s paid by the people who visit, and would be another source of money.”
Councilman Ted Edmonds noted that accommodations tax revenues are up for the year and appear to be rebounding.
“We may not have as much of a long-term issue if those funds keep increasing,” he said.
Steckler noted that the fireworks funding has been an issue for three straight years as accommodations taxes have lagged. He said a more secure, permanent funding source is needed.
Councilman Todd Leahy agreed, adding, “We need to be clear after this year about how this event is going to happen, so we’re not doing this at the last minute every year.”
He and Steckler suggested a June meeting to discuss long-term funding options for the fireworks and other similar events.
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