Sequim council removes Fourth of July celebration from budget

SEQUIM — City Council members have agreed not to dedicate funds in the 2017-18 budget to a Fourth of July celebration in Sequim.

“We’re not saying we don’t have an interest in a community celebration,” said Deputy Mayor Ted Miller at the Sept. 25 Sequim City Council meeting. “We just don’t want tax dollars to pay for it.”

City Manager Charlie Bush proposed a new celebration following one of the city’s student liaisons Haelee Andres’ suggestion for a Fourth of July celebration without fireworks.

City staff proposed $20,000 in next year’s budget with $10,000 coming from community donations. However, council members unanimously agreed not to go forward with any celebration with or without fireworks on the Fourth.

“I know $20,000 in this big budget is small, but the people in Sequim voted down fireworks,” said City Councilwoman Pam Leonard-Ray.

“We went ahead with a decision of the majority of the public, and then we’re still saying we’ll penalize residents of the city by taking $20,000 and putting [that] towards a celebration.”

Leonard-Ray listed other expenditures in the proposed budget the city already has committed to such as for Service Fest with Habitat for Humanity for Clallam County and the International Grassroots Summit with the Shiso City Association.

Talks about a Fourth of July celebration stem from last year after a citywide advisory vote, when 65.6 percent were in favor the council creating a policy banning recreational fireworks within the city limits starting in the summer of 2018.

The council approved the ban in November.

As part of the discussions, city staff recommended investigating costs and logistics for a public fireworks display somewhere in the city for the Fourth of July.

At the July 24 council meeting, council members agreed not to pursue a public fireworks display.

Assistant City Manager Joe Irvin said it would cost the city between $15,000 and $30,000 to do a fireworks show.

Bush said he had heard sentiment from residents asking for a display. However, Miller said he spoke to some constituents who weren’t opposed to a public display but preferred it be paid for by private businesses and/or nonprofits.

Leonard-Ray said people might not be opposed but she was “disturbed” to see one of the proposed sites was Sequim High School.

Bush said the high school was one of many possible locations because of its ample parking and minimal impact on neighbors.

Councilwoman Candace Pratt also opposed a display at the school because it’s close to the city’s lifestyle district where many retirees and senior citizens live. She also opposed an idea to move a fireworks display to another night so as not to compete with Port Angeles’ Fourth of July display.

“As far as having a different night as PA, we’d get a lot of pushback,” Pratt said. “[Lifestyle district residents] already have to get through Fourth of July with their pets, but then to do another night, we don’t want to go there.”

Councilman Bob Lake said he was “happy to do nothing”

“If the community has a lot of interest, then they can demonstrate that,” he said. “To initiate it is not something we need to do.”

Customarily, residents were allowed to shoot fireworks for the Fourth of July from June 28 through July 5. Up to four licensed retailers will continue to be allowed to sell legal fireworks in that time period in city limits.

Residents found illegally shooting fireworks could face a gross misdemeanor fine of up to $5,000 or up to 364 days in jail.

For more information on fireworks policies, contact the city of Sequim, whose offices are located 152 W. Cedar St., at 360-683-3311 or visit www.sequimwa.gov.

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Matthew Nash is a reporter with the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which is composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum. Reach him at mnash@sequimgazette.com.

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