Fourth of July fireworks displays costly for cities

Rachael Scarborough King
Star Staff Writer
Published: July 3, 2006

July Fourth is one of the best days of the year for blowing up money.

Fireworks displays are beautiful, patriotic and stirring. But they also cost a lot for local cities and towns.

Anniston’s and Heflin’s fireworks displays were on Saturday, while Oxford’s will be at 9 p.m. Tuesday at Oxford Lake Park. Jacksonville had to cancel its display this year due to a lack of funds.

This year’s biggest and most expensive display was in Anniston, which spent $10,000 on a 25-minute show. That money came out of the budget of the city’s Parks and Recreation Department.

There were 12 extra Anniston police officers working on Saturday, either for compensatory time or overtime, according to the police department; Oxford also will have more officers than usual for July Fourth. Neither city will have extra firefighters on duty, but Oxford will have an additional EMS crew on hand for the fireworks show.

Angie Shockley, programs director of the Anniston Parks and Recreation Department, said she thought some money would come back into the city through the additional people in the area. Last year about 5,000 people attended the fireworks show, Shockley said.

“People are going to either eat at the park or eat somewhere in Anniston on the way,” she said. “Hopefully they’ll fill up their vehicles with gas while they’re in Anniston.”

Shockley said the event is important for the city.

“It brings the community together as a whole, it’s something that you can bring your two-year-old to and you can bring your 100-year-old grandmother to,” she said. “Our phone has been ringing off the hook this week (with people) asking about our event … People really look forward to the fireworks show every year.”

The Jacksonville American Legion post and the Firefighter’s Union had to cancel their fireworks show this year. Unlike in other cities, the display there is mostly funded by donations from residents and local businesses.

The fireworks last year cost between $10,000 and $15,000, Jacksonville Fire Chief Michael Daugherty said. The city contributed about $2,000 and Jacksonville State University gave more than $1,000.

Daugherty said that after a shortage of donations for last year’s fireworks a notice was placed in the newspaper asking people whether they thought the event should continue, eliciting few responses.

“If you’re not raising the money and the people don’t look like they’re very interested … that’s kind of like an ultimatum, like that’s what they want,” he said. “The firefighters and the American Legion couldn’t take that on as a permanent expense and so that was the end of the fireworks at least for now.”

Daugherty said he has talked to many disappointed Jacksonville residents in recent weeks.

“We were entirely dependent on whether or not people gave money,” he said. “If they were interested, they gave money and the converse of that, if we didn’t see money coming we had to take that as a lack of interest.”

The Heflin display is paid for with the city’s “special events” fund, which is not tax money, said City Clerk Terri Daulton. This year, the second that Heflin has had its own event, the city spent $3,600 on fireworks.

“It’s just something that we look forward to every year and it’s something to be proud of and it’s fun,” Daulton said. “I love fireworks and so does our mayor.”

Heflin also had a few extra police officers on duty Saturday.

Oxford is the only city in the county holding its celebration on July 4. The display this year will cost about $4,500.

Attendees at Saturday’s festivities in Anniston said they thought fireworks displays are a justified expense.

“I believe it shows patriotism,” Trisha Ard of Alexandria said. “As long as it don’t take away from important things … like the schools.”

She and her husband, John Ard, said it just wouldn’t be July 4 without fireworks.

But, she added, “I think you can be patriotic without fireworks.”

Nadine Saxton of Jacksonville brought her one-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Nadia, to see her first fireworks show.

“I think it helps celebrate the holiday,” she said of the fireworks.

Saxton said she was disappointed that Jacksonville’s show was canceled this year.

“I think all the cities should have them,” she said. “The cities don’t offer many positive things for people to come out and do.”

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