By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News
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“I haven’t given up,” said John Eissinger, a licensed pyrotechnist in Port Townsend who has worked on the display for 11 years.
“Over the next few days, I will be approaching several local businesses to see if they want to sponsor the event.”
July Fourth fireworks have been set off in a public display over the water since 2001.
City ordinances prohibit any fireworks but the public display. Individuals cannot legally set off fireworks within the city.
From 2001 through 2010, the public fireworks display was run by the Sunrise Rotary Club, of which Eissinger is a member. The explosives were set off from a barge, and the display cost $16,000.
The city took over sponsorship in 2011 and set off the fireworks from a beach at Fort Worden State Park, cutting the cost to $10,000
City Manager David Timmons said the city now has withdrawn funding for the display because of the city’s declining revenue and rising expenses.
“This wasn’t a priority for us,” Timmons said of the fireworks.
Timmons said the fireworks’ cost of $10,000 “could easily double” considering the potential for police overtime or other expenses.
Eissinger said he thought he could bring the cost down to $8,000 by shortening the presentation, which was 25 minutes last year, by 20 percent.
Eissinger said he is looking for a few business sponsorships and will not attempt a public fundraising campaign since that takes too much time and manpower.
“When we were sponsoring the fireworks as part of the Sunrise Rotary, it was people-intensive, and we had to do it all year,” he said.
Eissinger emphasized that he is not soliciting individual donations, which would have to be returned if the fundraising isn’t successful.
If no sponsor comes forward by the end of the month, the event will be canceled, Eissinger said.
“We could skip a year,” he said.
“That might motivate the community to create the momentum to support it next year.”
While fireworks displays represent a tradition, both Timmons and Eissinger said a city fireworks display increases overall safety since it offers an alternative to individuals setting off fireworks themselves.
By sponsoring a fireworks display, the city actually could save money by discouraging illegal celebrations, Timmons said.
“If there is an injury, that could cost us $10,000 for one airlift to Harborview,” Timmons said, referring to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, where many North Olympic Peninsula trauma cases are taken.
Eissinger said he agreed with the city’s decision to withdraw the funding.
“I’m surprised this didn’t happen earlier,” he said.
“Most government agencies have already given up on this kind of thing.”
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Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.