Come July 4, Marco Island will have a fireworks display over the Gulf of Mexico. In the meantime, though, the effort to pay for the production continues.
The approximately $40,000 cost for the Independence Day fireworks has been funded through a combination of public and private money, said City Manager Dr. Jim Riviere during the City Council’s Budget Subcommittee meeting on June 2.
“It’s a $40,000 event. We had a $12,000 in-kind contribution from Johnson Brothers, and we raised $16,000,” said Riviere. Johnson Bros., the contractor working on the Judge S.S. Jolley Bridge, is providing the barge from which the fireworks will be launched.
The deficit, indicated Riviere, would come out of the parks and recreation budget.
At the request of Parks and Recreation Director Bryan Milk, the Marco Island Area Chamber of Commerce sent out a letter to its members, asking for donations.
“These are hard times for business,” said the letter, over the signature of chamber Executive Director Sandi Riedemann. “While it is difficult to ask you to contribute at this time, there is a strong reason to make Independence Day a special day on our Island. It is not only a celebration; it is an excellent source of business.”
Visitors come to the Island for the fireworks, and spend money at local businesses, said the letter.
In person, Riedemann emphasized the point.
“I think everyone should step up to the plate. We get a lot of phone calls asking if we’re having fireworks,” she said. “If a time comes when we don’t have them, I’m afraid they’ll go someplace else. It brings a lot of people to the Island.”
Milk said that the two largest hotels on the Island had contributed to the cause, with the Marco Island Marriott Beach Resort chipping in $2,500, and the Hilton Marco Island Beach Resort, $1,000.
Mac Chaudhry, Hilton general manager, said his hotel had also donated a resort package valued at $500.
Councilman Bill Trotter said the hotels could do more, and pointed out “that’s the most profitable Marriott in the world.”
Riviere expressed uneasiness with the idea of the city hitting up businesses for contributions.
“I hope this is the last year we do it,” he said, referring to the solicitations. “I don’t want to see regulators asking for donations from the regulatees.”
On Wednesday, Councilman Jerry Gibson said he thought the Fourth of July was an appropriate expenditure of municipal funds.
“I’ve always felt fireworks should be paid for out of the general fund,” he said. “There are certain things we as a city should do, and provide a celebration on Independence Day is one of those. If the city wants to do fundraising, all well and good. Businesses, those who directly benefit, should help defray the cost through voluntary donations, they key word being voluntary. ”
Milk said the shortfall in funding, which had been pegged at $2,000, is actually $7,000.
“We are currently about $7,000 short. In the next 20 to 25 days, I feel confident we can reach our goal,” he said. “I think we can make our mark without any problem, but time is of the essence.”
Milk said Hideaway Country Club had donated $1,000, and the Island Country Club pledged a donation as well. (The amount was not known at press time).
The show will go on, said Milk. “We have sent a check to the vendor. We have committed to this.”
The celebration is scheduled for July 4, a little after sunset. The barge launching the fireworks will be anchored off the south end of Residents’ Beach, about 1,000 feet off the shore.
Donations can be made to the City of Marco Island Fireworks Display, and send or deliver it to Mackle Park, 1361 Andalusia Terrace, Marco Island, Florida 34145. For more information call 389-3903.