What price for fireworks?

Published 11:30 am Friday, March 8, 2013

Whenever a budget has to be made and revenue is tight, cutting out luxuries makes sense. But what happens when they are perceived as an economic necessity?

That was the situation facing the Isle of Wight County Board of Supervisors at their February meeting. The board voted 3-2 in favor of contributing $11,000 for 4th of July fireworks displays in the fiscal year 2013-14 budget. During the reportedly heated discussion, both sides made valid points on whether or not the Independence Day tradition should be maintained in both Windsor and Smithfield.

The matter came up because IOW Parks and Recreation Director Mark Furlo suggested cutting the cost as a way to trim his budget by five percent per the board’s request. He also needed to know in order to get vendors signed up as soon as possible.

Smithfield District Supervisor Al Casteen, Newport District Supervisor Byron Bailey and Windsor District Supervisor Dee Dee Darden essentially said the fireworks displays benefit the county economically. Evidently, people who come out for the events will buy food and shop, putting money in the towns’ cash registers.

The trio believes the money can be found. In his Feb. 23 letter to The Tidewater News, Casteen further defends his decision.

In contrast, Board Chairwoman JoAnn Hall and Carrsville District Supervisor Rex Alphin voted against the inclusion. This wasn’t done to be killjoys, to borrow a term that Darden used about herself that night. Both Hall and Alphin insisted they like the displays as much as the next person.

Instead, they understandably see the fireworks as a luxury. While the displays are the quintessential symbol of the Fourth of July, their beauty fades quicker than you can hum “Yankee Doodle.”

Weigh that sight against paying for such items as firefighters, water and sewage and better roads, and then ask yourself which you would rather have for the county.

For now, the fireworks stay. And should the three supervisors indeed find the money, all the better.

Nonetheless there will still be other sacrifices to be made before the budget is finalized.