Local News

Council to discuss Fourth of July fireworks

SEBRING - Two Sebring City Council members and the mayor say they'll support the city providing some funding for the Fourth of July fireworks on Lake Jackson.

But Mayor John Shoop and council members John Griffin and Bud Whitlock say they don't believe the city should fund the full cost.

The funding issue will come up tonight during the Sebring City Council meeting, which begins at 6 p.m.

City administrator Scott Noethlich suggested in an agenda item summary two options, but did not recommend either.

One would have the city and the Community Redevelopment Agency give $5,000, or a third of the $15,000 needed, and city officials could help raise money from the private sector for the remaining cost, the summary states.

Then, for 2015, city officials would seek a civic club or another community organization that would take it over for that year, Noethlich adds.

The other option would be to "not restore the city's funding to the fireworks display and make a request of the community to fund" it.

The situation came about after the Rotary Club of Sebring ended its long sponsorship of the event.

"We believe that the efforts associated with the coordination of this event do not align with the areas of focus of Rotary, particularly as they relate to creating a lasting impact on the lives of those in need," Rotary chapter President David Annett wrote in a Oct. 17, 2013, letter to the Greater Sebring Chamber of Commerce.

"We have reached out to a few other local community organizations to gauge their interest in replacing our club in this effort, but they have declined," he added.

Consequently, Lora Todd and Casey Wohl with Push Event Productions have told the city they will cancel plans for a new "Red, White & Blues" festival unless funding is found for the fireworks by April 15.

They wrote in a March 19 letter to Noethlich it was never their plan to handle the fireworks, too.

"At this time, we are not aware of any organization, business or entity that has agreed to coordinate, fund and produce the fireworks this year," they wrote.

Shoop said he believes there's a civic responsibility involved and that the "city and the community should work together to provide fireworks."

"It's an annual celebration of our county," Shoop said.

Griffin said he's willing to support the fireworks to some extent, but he doesn't believe the city should be solely responsible financially, as county residents enjoy the display, too. Griffin said he's confident the money can be raised even though the event is only four months away.

"They do it in Avon Park; they do it in Lake Placid; I think they should be able to do it here," he said.

Whitlock also supports some city backing, but added the private sector should support it.

The city's support for the fireworks has dwindled over the last years.

From the 2005-06 fiscal year to the 2009-10 fiscal year, the city chipped in $5,000 and the CRA gave $2,500. But in the 2010-11 fiscal year, the city ended its contribution and the CRA gave $5,000.

The CRA's contribution dropped back to $2,500 the two following years, while the city gave no money.


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