Fireworks proposal fizzles as City Council aims for 2013 display
April 24, 2012
By Warren Kagarise
Independence Day revelers eager to see the rockets’ red glare in the Issaquah sky must wait at least another year, after City Council members decided against funding a holiday fireworks display.
Councilman Mark Mullet, owner of Ben & Jerry’s Scoop Shop and Zeeks Pizza in the Issaquah Highlands, offered to fund a July 3 fireworks display at Tibbetts Valley Park. The proposal fizzled April 16 after other council members raised questions about budget, calendar and space limitations.
Instead, in a split decision, the council agreed to explore other sites and options for a 2013 fireworks display. Mullet and Council President Tola Marts cast votes against the legislation, and supported a plan presented to council members to produce a fireworks display this year.
By the numbers
The city Parks & Recreation offered a breakdown of estimated costs for a proposed July 3 fireworks display at Tibbetts Valley Park.
Total — $75,555
City expense — $44,905
Mullet offered to donate $30,650 to fund a fireworks display, but the support costs to the city — estimated at $44,905 — dwarfed the proposed gift.
“I would love to be able to pay to bring one here,” he said before the 4-2 decision to explore a fireworks display for next summer. “I wasn’t trying to cause any difficulty. I wasn’t trying to make it tense or challenging. I was trying to pay for everything under the sun that I thought would be third-party costs.”
Other council members offered support for Mullet’s proposal, but did not support the plan due to the estimated cost.
“I am 110 percent supportive of the idea, and it really pains me to take the vote that I’m going to take,” Councilwoman Stacy Goodman said.
The council did not set aside dollars in the 2012 municipal budget to fund administrative and cleanup costs for a fireworks display. Officials intend to seek additional sponsors and vendors for a 2013 event to offset expenses.
Officials balked at the costs to staff the event — estimated at $10,000 for city Parks & Recreation Department employees; $4,000 for Eastside Fire & Rescue; and $1,300 for police — and transform Tibbetts Valley Park into a viewing area.
The estimated tab included $2,000 for canopies, chairs and tables; $2,000 for security fencing; $1,500 for portable toilets; and $500 for portable hand-washing stations — not to mention $2,000 to transport and board horses from nearby property, and to have a veterinarian examine the animals. (The noise from a fireworks display could spook the horses.)
Timing influences decision
The limited space at Tibbetts Valley Park is suitable for a small-scale fireworks display and another location, say, Lake Sammamish State Park, should receive consideration for 2013, officials said.
Timing — 78 days separated the April 16 council decision and July 3 — also influenced the council decision. Officials said the turnaround could overextend city staffers and offer a limited timeframe to recruit volunteers.
“Mark, I commend you for the idea,” Councilman Fred Butler said. “I wish you would have been a little bit earlier.”
Mullet’s colleagues said the discussion is more suited for autumn budget deliberations.
“I hope that those of us that would like to go forward, I hope that our votes help move this process forward and that if we don’t do it for 2012, that we go early and hard for doing it for next year,” Marts said.
The donation offered Mullet a chance to show appreciation to the community and, perhaps, boost business.
Mullet attributed a lifelong affinity for Ivar’s fish and chips to the annual fireworks display the seafood restaurant chain used to sponsor in Seattle.
“That’s for me where the idea came from,” he said.
In the public discussion before the decision, council members did not address the thorny issues inherent in the issue.
Mullet, a Democrat, is a state Senate candidate for the seat held by incumbent Republican Cheryl Pflug.
The fireworks display offered a chance for Mullet to build goodwill among 5th Legislative District voters a month before the Aug. 7 primary election.
The situation also presented a rare opportunity for city priorities and a council member’s business interests to intersect.
Mullet asked for advice from City Attorney Wayne Tanaka before joining the council decision on the issue.
“I think going forward, if we do it, I think the whole goal was to make it so that it was not a strain on the city’s budget. That was the whole intent of this process,” Mullet said. “Our challenge is to find a way to really minimize the amount of city staff to do a fireworks show.”
Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.