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Council Fails to Find Consensus on July 4th Fireworks

Since no action was taken to devote money to the event at a meeting last week, IB may not have fireworks launched from the pier next year. Another event IB is known for, the U.S. Open Sandcastle Competition, entered the debate.

Officially, a computer malfunction caused 15 minutes of fireworks to go off in less than 30 seconds at the 2012 Big Bay Boom, said Garden State Fireworks.

To make up for the pyrotechnic bust heard round the world, Garden State has agreed to donate $125,000 in free fireworks to double the size of next year's show, said Executive Producer Sandy Purdon.

Whether the Big Bay Boom returns to paint Imperial Beach with neon glow in 2013 is still a mystery.

Councilman Ed Spriggs said he wants to see fireworks stay in IB, particularly for the opening of the new Pier South hotel, but like other members of the City Council, he wants to see others like the hotel owners and the Port of San Diego step up to pay more of the bill.

"I think if we say we're willing to put some money on the table, way less than ever before, then we'll see who's willing to stand up and join us. If they don't by the 8th of January then we're not in. We're not going to have it," Spriggs said.

The Imperial Beach City Council cut the roughly $30,000 needed to cover public safety costs for the event from their 2012-13 budget in June. At that time the city said it may seek ways to pay for the event beyond its general fund, but no fundraising ever took place.

At a City Council meeting last week, spending money on the Big Bay Boom was again up for consideration but no official financial commitment was made.

Purdon said he needs an answer from the city by Jan. 8, the day he will appear before the Board of Port Commissioners to discuss how much the port is willing to give to the fireworks show.

A major sponsor of the event, the Port of San Diego, paid for more than half of the total cost of the Big Bay Boom in IB in 2012.

Another City Council meeting will not be held until Jan. 23.

When asked if IB could still get fireworks if no commitment was made by Jan. 8, Purdon said, "I would have to negotiate that with my fireworks and other contractors. I could probably still work things out if there was some indication that IB City Council was interested in supporting this event even if the final decision came later."

The money for free fireworks breaks down to $25,000 for each of the five fireworks spots. Purdon said he may consider using part of that money to offset funding shortfalls, but that would not reduce the $25-35,000 it will cost to pay for public safety.

Concerned with future budget troubles, city officials spent part of the meeting talking about whether IB can come up with $5-10,000. The city's elected officials agreed to have Mayor Jim Janney and City Manager Gary Brown meet with Purdon again to see if fireworks are still possible if the city commits up to $10,000.

"I can't see in our present budget situation, which is really a lot more deeper than we've come to realize because we haven't got to that point in our budgeting cycles, I can't see supporting this at this moment in time."

"Like a lot of families, the city is having financial troubles and needs to tighten its belts," said Councilman Brian Bilbray, calling the fireworks show a "luxury" the city cannot afford at this time.

Some City Councilmembers suggested that more money should be sought from other stakeholders who put money in to pay for local fireworks in the past, including the Port of San Diego and Pacifica Companies, owner of Pier South, the new hotel scheduled to open in the first half of 2013.

The city should be the first to step forward and put money on the table, Spriggs said.

"But you know, when you're trying to raise money, it's always better to have somebody say, 'Well here's what we're putting in.' Somebody's got to be first to say, 'Here's what we'll put on the table,'" he said.

Pacifica needs to "throw some skin in the game" if they want fireworks, Janney said, and the company has not approached the city about being involved.

"They know what's on the agenda, they know what happened last year. They've not approached us to participate in it," Janney said.

Pacifica Companies did not return calls for comment at the time this story was published.

The Imperial Beach Business Improvement District gave $10,000 to the Big Bay Boom this year. The assessment district pulled its funding in 2013 but said they would reconsider if the city threw its hat in the ring.

Part of the meeting strayed into talk about what used to be the city's largest annual event: the U.S. Open Sandcastle Competition. Organized by an all-volunteer committee of local citizens, the U.S. Open Sandcastle Competition came to an end in 2011. The event received no funding or help organizing from the city.

The city and chamber were able to find money for fireworks but "I think we're missing the boat that these funds really should have gone towards sandcastle days," said Councilwoman Lorie Bragg referring to the U.S. Open Sandcastle Competition.

Over the course of three decades, the sandcastle competition grew to become the largest of its kind in the world. In its absence, the Big Bay Boom is now the largest event of the year in IB.

Bragg said if a choice had to be made between the two, she would rather see the money committed to the rebirth of a sandcastle competition through the .

Bilbray and Janney said the city should avoid requesting money from the Port of San Diego so there is still money to support future events in Imperial Beach.

"I just want us all to remember: If we ask the $25,000 from the port for this, the next time that we have something whether it be a sun and sea or a sandcastle they only have so much money in their budget too," Janney said.

Councilman Spriggs said he doesn't see funding for fireworks and a future sandcastle competition as an either-or proposition.

"We should have probably taken a more aggressive position on sandcastles when we first heard that this was happening," he said.

Councilman Bobby Patton said he would like to see the city make a concerted effort to hold fundraisers to pay for fireworks in the future.

When the City Council agreed to cut fireworks from its 2012-13 budget in June, there was talk of seeking additional sources of funding.

A study produced by economists at Point Loma Nazarene University found that the Big Bay Boom has a $10.6 million economic impact for the region, but results were not broken down for individual cities.

"We're not the same as having an 1,100-room hotel on the bay front," Janney said. "And then if you look at San Diego and add up how many of them they collect a lot of money from them and they expect us to come up with this huge amount with no proportion involved here. And Coronado doesn't put any money into it cause it's across the bay that puts the money into it."

Spriggs questioned how a study could find $10 million in economic impact but "it kind of makes me wonder how it's possible that this couldn't benefit Imperial Beach in some way."

Brown said the city may receive some economic benefit from the Big Bay Boom, but not enough to justify spending $25,000-35,000. July sales tax data shows no impact in comparison to years past when the city had no fireworks show.

Libi Uremovic December 17, 2012 at 02:33 PM
for the record: the sheriff's dept charged nothing - zero - (0) extra for the 4th of july last year.... so all the b.s. about how much extra it costs the city is more lies...
Libi Uremovic December 17, 2012 at 02:34 PM
bringing back mike mcgrane to cook the books will cost the people more in one month than the price of the fireworks...
Jack Fisher December 17, 2012 at 02:56 PM
Last year I heard that it took two hours to get from the beach to the freeway beacuse of all the traffic and lack of organization by traffic control. If Imperial Beach ever has a large event again it will be the last because once we turn Palm Ave into a one lane street from 7th to Seacoast getting lots of traffic in and out of the city will be impossible. I could care less about having a bike route that goes to the beach, I want the tourist that will spend money going to the beach. Another half thought out project that limits the economic growth of Imperial Beach.
Jon Hall December 17, 2012 at 03:18 PM
Shame the thermometer was put away ...
Libi Uremovic December 17, 2012 at 03:21 PM
jack, if 80,000 showed up then how did not one business in ib make money? there's no reason to rip up palm ave. in that area - all they need to do is paint bike lanes and there's plenty of room..... it would be much more profitable for the city to build a festival around the 4th of july than it would be to waste hundreds of thousands to rip up palm ave..
Libi Uremovic December 17, 2012 at 03:25 PM
at every council meeting they tell us all the conventions and meetings they attend, but council rarely speaks of communication with people ... i'd like to see council report on their communication with the people....they all have about 5,500 constituents each, yet none of them ever have a report on the needs and wants of the people...
Jack Fisher December 17, 2012 at 03:40 PM
I'm sure with that many peoplel the local business did make money. I would like to see the City help business when there are large events by allowing them to set up food stands outside the restaurants fro quick grab and go eats. I'm with you all the way in just painting the roads instead of ripping them up again. I think that the City Council should provide events for the residents based on an entertainment value. We do this within our own families, we go out to to see a movie or have dinner just to have a good time and spend money that has been set aside for this purpose. I think the thermometer would work. I suggested that we use the fountain at triangle park as a wishing well and have everyone toss spare change in there. Libi, are you certain that the Sheriffs department was not paid more for the event last year? I would like to bring this up at the next council meeting.
Libi Uremovic December 17, 2012 at 04:01 PM
yes, i'm sure jack - check # 79118 - issued on 09/16/11 - $467,461.96 - 'july 2011 sheriff svcs' - which is our monthly fee.... if you'll recall - the city never says it's the sheriff's fee in the council meeting.... the only bill i saw for the 4th of july was $3,000 to clean up that went to a group home in east county...that money should have gone to one of our own organizations in ib...
Serge Dedina December 17, 2012 at 04:46 PM
It was good for the City of IB to finally say it can't afford a luxury like fireworks. If the community wants to have a 4th of July celebration then let the community including the business community raise the funds to pay for it. Again--you can't blast the city for not being fiscally prudent, and then blast them for being fiscally prudent. And as for bike-lines, those are actually a smart way of increasing the number of high-income bike riders who find their way to Imperial Beach each day and who can be found eating lunch and or drinking coffee on the pier. Increasing tourist revenues in Imperial Beach involves attracting a diversity of tourist users (bicyclists, surfers, bird-watchers etc) who want to eat and even stay overnight. One-day events like fireworks that attract lots of people for a few hours and require a lot of security aren't the way to build up our tourist economy. Look, I agree the city needs to get its financial house in order, but on this one, the city staff and council members are correct--we can't afford it.
Jack Fisher December 17, 2012 at 05:26 PM
Serge, do you think that the CIty is actually being fiscally responsible? Two weeks ago they gave away $2,200 for Eagle Scout projects for troop that are way outside of our city and for lanscaping projects that are not significant. I support the Boy Scouts of America, being a commitee chairperson for 5 years and an assistant scoutmaster for 5 years with Troop 102 (that is in Imperial Beach) but I think that the city needs to use the same fiscal controls. Could we do the bike path without tearing up the streets and spending tons of money and make it safe enough for the bicyclist, I think so. I agree with having the diversity of tourist but are we going so spend money to create a wave machine to ensure consistant surf or build a platform for birdwatching?
Mark December 17, 2012 at 07:30 PM
Do the fireworks.
Erika Lowery December 17, 2012 at 09:07 PM
Does the city, honestly, think that people will not be drawn to the beach on a holiday? Yes it will be CONSIDERABLY less without the fireworks, AND they will leave EARLIER (so restaurants won't get a dinner crowd like Jersey Boy's did) to see fireworks elsewhere. But there WILL be traffic problems, so traffic control will be necessary. Oh and clean up will be necessary too. So the big costs will still be incurred, without the fireworks. Now with Palm being cut down in size, traffic will be terrible - even on a minor holiday, like Columbus day. So are we going to pay for traffic control on EVERY holiday? Also, regulars and locals will learn backroutes - like Pomona in Coronado. So the neighborhoods will see an increase in traffic. What will the city do to make them happy? Install speed bumps? And how much will THAT COST? In reality, the city SHOULD forget the bike route, keep Palm 2 lanes each way, and use that money for fireworks, Sandcastles AND the Sports Park. Things RESIDENTS want. I probably should have had decaf before writing this.
Mark December 17, 2012 at 09:16 PM
Serg - 1. It is not good for the city not to have fireworks. 2. Route the bike riders up and down Elm Street. Leave Palm and IB Blvd. alone. 3. Bird Watchers are generally older folks who don't spend money. 4. I agree with your one-day events comment. Still have the fireworks. 5. If staff was going to be reduced for the city to have fireworks, the staff would find a way to fund it. Time to eliminate a posistion.
alicia December 17, 2012 at 10:09 PM
Jacko ... If national city can afford fireworks why can't we... I live in Ib i never had trouble with traffic like shelter Island or Coronado... Wow... That's Traffic... Besides Mar Vista high depends on that money from sand Castles ... Poor kids are now paying... We have one of the ugliest football bleacher since your times... Really and your concerned of building more business... first help work with our community first... And then help others... Yes of course you want more food event cause they have to pay for their spot to sell food... Sure you wanna help your wallet... What happen to Ib...our hidden beach... Soon will be like Jersey Shores paying too use the beach...
Pamela Olvera December 19, 2012 at 01:08 AM
This town has more excuses that answers. The city of IB pays the City of Chula Vista $230,000 annually to have Animal Control services. This service allegedly saves the city $30K. We don't even have a designated dog beach. Today I’ve seen Animal Control drive up my street for a total of 3 times so far. How much does this cost us in gas? And the City cannot balance a budget that includes funds for a firework show? Not even a portion of the costs? What is the new hotel going to list on their brochures as Imperial Beach annual festivals or tourist attractions? The fact that we have an ocean, a pier and a marine reserve? How do we want to attract people from other cities to our town by not showcasing our annual festivities? How will the uncertainty of not having an annual 4th of July Fireworks Show and Annual Sandcastles Competition actually hurt the city?
Pamela Olvera December 19, 2012 at 01:08 AM
The mere fact that this city has never recorded the economical impact the sandcastle competition has had on businesses and people in the community is unbelievable to me. How are we supposed to get sponsors and companies to help with the cost if we cant even show how much this event benefits our community or other events for that matter? And to hear the argument that one day doesn’t make a difference? Its what puts us on the map folks. Its what draws other people from other communities to explore IB. What are we going to list on our city’s website under the visitors section? How will we support services to residents and our youth – and to our low performing schools?
Pamela Olvera December 19, 2012 at 01:09 AM
Our city’s visitor section lists Low’s Coronado Surf Dog Competition as an annual event … what? Its ok for Low’s Coronado to use our beach for their Surf Dog Competition but we can’t have a guaranteed fireworks display and sandcastle competition and find creative ways to put money back into our community and schools? I know the city is broke, but they did it to themselves. We now have a new hotel opening up soon that will house tourists. What are we going to offer them? I’ve sold parking to people who come from as far as Oregon for the annual sandcastle competition and you mean to tell me these events don’t contribute economically to our economy? Same applies to the Fireworks Festival. These events take place mid summer when everyone flocks to San Diego. Common sense folks.
Pamela Olvera December 19, 2012 at 01:20 AM
Alicia, Coronado schools foundation is mostly supported by businesses. Even businesses based out of imperial beach.
Pamela Olvera December 19, 2012 at 01:21 AM
Imperial beach is not a hidden beach - it's one most people don't desire to visit. Mostly because its always polluted.
Pamela Olvera December 19, 2012 at 01:24 AM
Which is why we have to find ways to draw people and their money to this town - find creative ways to make this town a better place. And in turn, have money to improve our community.
Jack Fisher December 19, 2012 at 03:09 AM
I totally disagree with you on this point and maybe Serge can chime in on this topic. Imperial Beach has made a handful of days over the last decade when the bacteria levels have exceeded the dangerous levels. This is outside of time when it rains or other natural weather conditions contribute to run off from the Tijuana River Valley. You could not pay me to step foot into San Deigo Bay, which is one ofthe most polluted bodies of water in the nation, yet they have so many events and activites that bring the tourists and locals out. On your other points I agree
Pamela Olvera December 19, 2012 at 04:38 AM
I understand but I don't swim in mission bay waters - I do however swim in IB. I fish mission bay waters but only catch and release- I wouldn't eat anything living in there. I lived in other parts of San Diego and the most common thing I hear from my friends, coworkers, and people not from the south bay is their misconception that IB is polluted. before i lived here this was not my beach of choice - i would take my kids to encinitas, wind and sea, ocean beach an other surf spots. For many other reasons as well but mostly because i thought it was polluted. it wasnt until i moved here four years ago that i began to get to know IB and appreciate it for what it is. lots of people who live here dont understand how IB is portrayed outside of IB. not that it may be true or not, but definitely what people think. And without anything to lure them here makes it difficult. There is more to my thoughts and feelings but I'll keep them at that. I do understand what you are telling me and why you disagree and what I am sure mr dedina will enlighten me on. Believe me, I'm still explaining myself to others not from here why I would even want to open up a business here. My comment may have been a bit harsh to hear and I'll accept that - there are some proud folks here in IB and I don't want to offend them. I'm merely pushing for change in my community. I've seen what works in other communities - look at South Park for instance, remember what that was like 10 years ago?
Pamela Olvera December 19, 2012 at 04:50 AM
Barrio Logan is another classic example. i know know of three families living there. Even an attorney from an old firm i used to work at bought a house there recently. Have you seen or heard of what changes are in store for them? Even a community college is set to open there. It takes a community and strong leadership to make change. We can't just sit back and blame the city for all our problems - even though many would like too. ;). I had a tough upbringing - does that mean I have to keep the same mentality and blame others for my misfortune? No, I take responsibility and make my future brighter. We should all gather soon and discuss ways for change or at the very least bridge the gap between thoughts and opinions and actually come up with sound solutions. Agree to disagree and make for change.
Pamela Olvera December 19, 2012 at 06:00 AM
I'd like to see the mayor issue a press release and ask for a volunteer committee to be set up to find ways to fund fireworks and sandcastle events and ask the sheriff department for a report on traffic flow and funding / manpower.
Erika Lowery December 19, 2012 at 06:07 AM
I think you're asking a lot there. There is a list of things that the council should answer to - why no fireworks but we'll spend $14k on a study of "pedestrian scale lighting" for people who don't walk down Seacoast, why no support for Sandcastles, YMCA running the Sports Park, why are we funding so many Eagle Scout projects, etc? The fireworks is the tip of the iceberg.
Erika Lowery December 19, 2012 at 06:09 AM
FYI Coronado Schools Foundation does get a lot of their funding through business sponsorship, but now they are asking for a *minimum* $100 donation per child per year. Sorry, I thought this was a PUBLIC school...
Jack Fisher December 19, 2012 at 01:26 PM
Many of us have expressed our desire to volunteer on a community committee but have never been taken up on it. I brought up the need to hire a PR company to help change the image of the city but alas nothing happens. We tear up roads, make zoning laws, etc.. but the label of being a biker bar and polluted beach town remains. I sometimes think the city wants us to either go bankrupt or is afraid to have volunteers help because we might find out what is really going on at city hall. I think that South Park and Barrio Logan are great examples of change that can happen to communities. The city of San Diego has allowed and even encouraged business to open with out beating them with nickle and dime fees for everything. Trust me many of us who speak poorly of the city council are not just mean we are discouraged at the lack of respect that is shown the needs and wants of the residents. We love our city and want to keep it our city, which includes positive change that benefits the families and visitors who are in Imperial Beach. Pamela, try to make it a point to attend the city council meetings as we normally have an informal gathering afterward.
Libi Uremovic December 19, 2012 at 02:40 PM
we already have a committee that's suppose to be working for the people ....it's called the council...
Pamela Olvera December 19, 2012 at 06:10 PM
I will make an effort to attend the next mtg Jack, thanks.
Candy Unger January 03, 2013 at 01:41 AM
My thoughts exactly, Jon! I think the Imperial Beach Sunset And Whale Watchers Society need to make a comeback! :)

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