City of Port Townsend to sponsor fireworks for Fourth of July

PORT TOWNSEND — The Fourth of July will be celebrated with a grand fireworks display at Fort Worden this summer after the Port Townsend City Council approved a sponsorship agreement with Thunderbull Productions.

The City Council approved a $10,000 expenditure Monday, with Councilwoman Amy Howard casting the lone dissenting vote.

“I hate fireworks,” Howard said. “I appreciate the community gathering, but I’m opposed to the actual pollution and the noise pollution.”

Danny Milholland of Thunderbull Productions has taken over management of the event this year, including the fireworks display and fundraising from the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce, saying the chamber has had transitions and employee changes and was unable to organize the event.

“The chamber of commerce raised the funds for the event in the past, but it has passed the torch to Thunderbull Productions. Our major corporate sponsors have not been able to generate larger donations,” Milholland said.

“This event brings together many communities, including the fire department, police department and the sheriff’s department and Washington State Parks. It’s a collaborative effort,” he added.

He asked that the council consider making a yearly underwriting sponsorship.

City Manager David Timmons said the recommendation was for a one-time expenditure of $10,000 to underwrite the display. He said by not funding the fireworks, it would be a loss of the display which has been a big part of the Fourth of July celebration for a number of years.

The public display is the only legal use of fireworks within the city limits, although commercial fireworks can be discharged outside the city in Jefferson County.

“People go out and blow their fingers off and cause damage to themselves. There’s a public safety element to be concerned with,” Councilman David Faber said. “It is one of the most impressive community events we have. This is one of the things that keeps people here and safe.

“I’d like to ask people to step up and help contribute.”

Timmons said that at one time, the city funded the fireworks display.

“The original plan was to launch from a barge,” he said. “Then we were able to bring them on to land. Many years ago they were launched from a barge off of Indian Island. Post 9/11 we’re not allowed to do that anymore.”

In explaining her dissenting vote, Howard also said, “We’re supposed to be protecting our water and this stuff falls into it. My pets freak out. My PTSD freaks out. I have to leave the Fort and hang out in my house. I’m really of two minds. I understand the public safety aspect. That’s a hard thing to track. I can’t in good conscience spend that money on a fireworks display.”

Councilwoman Michelle Sandoval remembered when fireworks were allowed within city limits.

“One of the condo buildings went up in flames from stray fireworks,” she said.

“At the high school baseball field, you would see 50 people in the dark shooting off fireworks. This town really got into fireworks. When they were banned in the city limits, we got grief. We had a very near tragedy on some waterfront property. Talk about health and safety and PTSD. There was no way to get away from the smoke and the noise.

“We had it moved out to the Fort where it has been successful. This is a public safety issue,” Sandoval said.

Councilman Bob Gray expressed his concern that community needs are not being met and mentioned “a few of the 16 items that we can’t pay for $10,000 or under.”

Said Mayor Deborah Stinson: “This fireworks display is a gift we can give to the community. But I do it with mixed feelings. Fireworks impact climate change and cause pollution.

“However, I’m diggin’ those light drones they had at the Olympics. If this city could lead on LED light drones, maybe get the robotics kids involved. There’s a potential there.”

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Jefferson County Editor/Reporter Jeannie McMacken can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at jmcmacken@peninsuladailynews.com.

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