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No Fourth of July fireworks next summer, 2013

Dahlgren cancels event
 
Fireworks have been cancelled in King George for Fourth of July, 2013.

As in 2008 through 2010, residents will again have to go out of the county if they wish to view a fireworks display during their 2013 Fourth of July celebrations.

The Board of Supervisors reluctantly made the decision at a meeting last week on Nov. 6.


This time, the reason is due to the Naval Base at Dahlgren’s inability to support the holiday program in 2013 due to “the costs associated with the Fourth of July program and uncertainty in military funding.”

That was related by county Parks & Recreation Director Tim Smith in a brief written report provided in the meeting packet. The report also noted, as did Supervisor Ruby Brabo, that the message was communicated by Commanding Officer of the Navy Base at Dahlgren, Naval Captain P.R. Nette, at a meeting they both had with him on Oct. 22.

Brabo stated, “Unfortunately, the Naval Base does not have the funding or capability to host the event.”

 

 SEQUESTRATION?
It’s unclear whether that decision might be reversed in the event that “sequestration” does not take effect.
Sequestration is part of the automatic federal spending cuts that would take place on Jan. 2, 2013, if Congress does not take action to amend current legislation, the Budget Control Act, referred to in the national media as “going off the fiscal cliff.”

The possibility that there might be a reversal to Nette’s decision was not mentioned at last week’s meeting, with Supervisors taking the relayed message at face value.

 

DIFFERENT LOCATION NOT TENABLE
Smith and Brabo both noted that perhaps another venue in the county might be found for a county fireworks display, with Smith saying he would evaluate locations and report back.

Brabo stated, “We discussed the possibility of holding the event between the King George High School and middle school. Captain Nette stated the Naval Base would still support by providing generators, publicity, volunteers and attendance.”

But that idea was quickly pooh-poohed by the other three Supervisors present at the meeting due to several concerns, including safety, adequate parking, and extra security costs that would fall to the county.

Supervisors took into account the fact that an adequate venue would be needed with a fall-out area for a large safety zone for the fireworks, along with additional costs for the Sheriff’s office to keep members of the public safely back. Such a venue would also need to have large areas for parking hundreds of vehicles, along with personnel for traffic direction prior to and after the actual pyrotechnic display.

Supervisor Dale Sisson said, “We went through this in the past. We put a whole lot of energy and effort into getting it to where we could have it on the base again. There’s a huge infrastructure requirement for having this and what we really determined at this time and decided that there was only one area with significant infrastructure we could hold this.”

He added that in previous years they had researched locations and costs, saying, “You’re looking at about $20K on the security side and the cost on the fireworks side was approaching $20K - right? So you are talking at a $30-40K range for a 30 minute fireworks display. I think with the challenges that we’re facing budget-wise, and what we’re looking at, then unfortunately, if the other partnership is not going to allow us to go forward this year, I wouldn’t invest in developing a completely new alternative. There may be another opportunity in the future that our past method is resurrected.”

He summed up, saying, “But I would say thank you very much. We appreciate the cooperation we’ve had in the past, and move forward.”

Chairman Cedell Brooks agreed, “That’s what I said before. Why spend so much money for 30 minutes of fireworks? When we have regional things we can go to and not have the expenses.”

Brabo agreed. “There are certainly a number of opportunities regionally that people can attend. I mean it is disappointing to not have it right here in King George, but the times are what they are.”

Supervisor Joe Grzeika said, “I agree, we looked at this before and I just don’t do see it happening.”

Smith heard that message, capping the discussion, saying, “That’s pretty much a unanimous ‘no’.”

RECENT BACKGROUND
Smith’s report noted that the fireworks and other activities for a joint county-base Fourth of July had been held at the Naval Base at Dahlgren from 1987 through 2007, and then again for the last two years, in 2011 and 2012.

The county had first cancelled the fireworks display in 2008 due to fiscal constraints brought on by a weakening economy, combined with the receipt of only one bid for $18,000, which was 80 percent higher than the cost in the previous years.

The program had not been reconsidered for 2009 or 2010, but was brought up again in summer 2010 by then-chairman, Supervisor Dale Sisson, who obtained concurrence from board members to have staff take a look at the possibility of bringing back a county fireworks display if private funding sources in the community could be identified and put a bid out early for 2011.

Smith was able to successfully solicit donations to pay for pyrotechnic displays in both 2011 and 2012, with some county businesses stepping up, even in a weakened economy.

But the Naval Base at Dahlgren had provided the venue and site logistics for a pyrotechnic display, along with staffing, entertainment, activities and ample parking space and viewing areas.

— Phyllis Cook

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