To pay or not to pay: Fireworks become hot topic at Marco Island City Council

Monte Lazarus reports on a unanimous Planning Board resolution in favor of fireworks funding to the Marco Island City Council meeting on Monday, Oct. 3. Lance Shearer/Special to the Eagle

Photo by LANCE SHEARER // Buy this photo

Monte Lazarus reports on a unanimous Planning Board resolution in favor of fireworks funding to the Marco Island City Council meeting on Monday, Oct. 3. Lance Shearer/Special to the Eagle

Alan Brown of the Chamber of Commerce speaks up for fireworks funding at the Marco Island City Council meeting on Monday, Oct. 3. Lance Shearer/Special to the Eagle

Photo by LANCE SHEARER // Buy this photo

Alan Brown of the Chamber of Commerce speaks up for fireworks funding at the Marco Island City Council meeting on Monday, Oct. 3. Lance Shearer/Special to the Eagle

— There were fireworks, or at least a discussion of fireworks, in the Marco Island City Council at their meeting on Monday.

Unlike many Council meetings, where the great majority of the discussion centers around the agenda items, much of the talk came during the Community Forum, where citizens are given the chance to address the board on their concerns.

A big concern Monday was fireworks, or more precisely, paying for them. Speaker after speaker rose to urge the City fathers, who just passed a budget that slashes money for the Fourth of July fireworks display, along with numerous other items, to reconsider.

First up was Alan Brown, president of the Marco Island Area Chamber of Commerce. He made no attempt to hide the fact he is not a native American, which his accent gave away, in any case, as soon as he began to speak.

“Sixteen years ago, I moved to this country from England. In 2005, I became an American citizen. One of the things that made us decide to stay here was the patriotism,” he said. In England, people take their heritage for granted.

“One of the things I love is the Fourth of July. Our recommendation is you consider putting on the budget fireworks for the Fourth of July.” He noted the city’s Farmers’ Market makes a profit of approximately $60,000, and the cost for the fireworks is about $40,000, and asked that those funds be earmarked to pay for fireworks.

Invoking founding father John Adams, who foresaw the Fourth of July celebrations, Planning Board member Monte Lazarus made a similar point. He told the Council that the Planning Board had passed a unanimous resolution urging the city to fund the display.

Ruth McCann, executive director of the Marco Island Civic Association, told the Council her organization had taken a poll, and 85 percent voted yes on supporting the fireworks, compared to 9 percent against, and 6 percent undecided.

“It’s the largest gathering of our community all year long,” she said. “It would be a shame to see that fall apart.”

Marco Island Taxpayers Association president Fay Biles spoke up for personal contributions.

“If all of us could contribute five or ten dollars,” she said, government funding wouldn’t be necessary.

One resident, Ray Seward, spoke up against government funding, saying businesses that benefit from the fireworks “should be paying for it.” Saying no one is questioning anyone’s patriotism, he suggested any profits from the Farmers’ Market “should be reinvested in our debt.”

Councilman Wayne Waldack offered his calculation that, if fireworks were paid for out of ad valorem taxes, the tax bite per property owner would come to $1.68 apiece.

“I don’t think that’s a lot of money,” he said.

“That’s less than the $5 Fay wanted to spend,” added Chairman Jerry Gibson.

Kathleen Reynolds also spoke to the Council, making a similar pitch for funds for the St. Patrick’s Day Parade. “Giving us a few bucks would really help,” she said, saying her group is currently a 501 (c)7 organization, and awaiting the granting of 501(c)3 status.

Bill McMullen, along with several other speakers, urged more of a dialog between the Council and the public. Larry Sacher, president of the Marco Homeowners Association, said there is “a lack of transparency – a feeling the City Council doesn’t represent the interests of the people who elected you.” He said that Amadeo Petricca “had some specific questions. They were not answered. We spend our four minutes venting, and kind of get stared at. Rarely does anyone respond.” Sacher suggested a Town Hall-style meeting, to promote more give and take with elected officials.

Gibson did respond at the end of the public forum, saying, “I will not put staff in the position of having to make a response off the cuff. Much of the time, there needs to be research done to answer questions.”

Council also heard from local feline rescue group For the Love of Cats, and debated a measure either urging or requiring local merchants to stop selling candy- and fruit-flavored tobacco products.

© 2011 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Discuss
  • Print

Related Stories

Comments » 14

RayPray writes:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

happy6 writes:

only walduck would consider raising taxes...since he does not pay any.

JohninMarco writes:

Why don't we lay off one department head. This should cover it.

RayPray writes:

in response to RayPray:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Seawaller writes:

The Chamber of Commerce needs to take over the fireworks. This is what a Chamber of Commerce is all about. While many enjoy the fireworks, the Chamber benefits the most. They need to provide/recruit volunteers to sell support buttons to the public - in front of grocery and drug stores, at community events, everywhere. I'm sure there are many bar/restaurants who would be glad to host fundraisers. It needs to be a year long project. If they receive no support, then I guess people aren't all that interested in the fireworks after all. No way should taxpayers fund this, and to raid the farmer's market is at best obscene. While many civic organizations could do this, the Chamber is the one organization who actually has this as a pillar of their reason for existence.

chinkley writes:

Seawaller- I completly agree with you. The Chamber of Commerce benefits from this the most. All the hotels. resturants and tourist attractions belong to the Chamber of Commerce. The Marco Island residents will live and be happy here whether we have fire works or not. They should not pay for them..either through taxes or donations

marco97 writes:

How was this paid for before we became a City? Most of the residence don't live on the beach and don't have access to it. most of the condo owners on the beach are not here in July so they don't want to pay. This benefits the tourist who are great for the island but if you don't have a job that depends on the tourist for income you may feel that someone else should be paying for this. Let's get donations to fund this and I am sure the generous people of Marco will be more then happy to pay for it but a tax is not the answer.

WizeOlMarco writes:

in response to marco97:

How was this paid for before we became a City? Most of the residence don't live on the beach and don't have access to it. most of the condo owners on the beach are not here in July so they don't want to pay. This benefits the tourist who are great for the island but if you don't have a job that depends on the tourist for income you may feel that someone else should be paying for this. Let's get donations to fund this and I am sure the generous people of Marco will be more then happy to pay for it but a tax is not the answer.

Have the Chamber of Commerce be the organizing group, open the beach to the public for July 4th celebration, sell vendors licenses for food/drink/live bands/tourist stuff, staff by volunteers, charge $10 per person/$25 for family of 4, free parking.

loscabos writes:

Can someone tell me why the Major Hotels, Banks,and Supermarkets aren't being told to collectively or singularly Sponsor this event? It's being done in other cities and has been for years.

ilikemarco writes:

Maybe we can get Macys to come to Marco and sponsor this in addition to NY. This should be a joint venture between the city, the chamber and the hotels on the beach.

OldMarcoMan writes:

The City would love Fireworks if they could figure out how to Tax Fun.

dc5799 writes:

What about fund raising to pay for the fireworks and the St Pats parade? How much can a parade cost?
Remember Canine Cove, not a dime did the City give, all money was paid for by the animal lovers and what a great amount was raised.
You people go to these meetings with one thought in your heads, how much money can we get from the council. Raise your own money it will be a very rewarding experience.

happy6 writes:

take the money we're saving from the fired cop...$68,000...that should pay for the fireworks and the big flag pole....and if we don't replace him (it would take 2 to replace him) we'll have the firworks paid for many years to come...mr. rivere...this ain't hard to figure out.

Seawaller writes:

in response to islandeye1#236971:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Island - you have me mixed up with another poster. I never wrote what you atributed to me.

Share your thoughts

Comments are the sole responsibility of the person posting them. You agree not to post comments that are off topic, defamatory, obscene, abusive, threatening or an invasion of privacy. Violators may be banned. Click here for our full user agreement.

Comments can be shared on Facebook and Yahoo!. Add both options by connecting your profiles.

Features