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Sparks Fly Over Fireworks Permit Fee Increase

$400 hike approved after mayor breaks tie vote.

On the same day the Cherry Valley Club requested a fireworks permit for its annual Labor Day carnival, trustees raised the fee from $100 to $500 after Mayor Robert Rothschild voted twice to break the tie vote. Trustees Nick Episcopia, Laurence Quinn and John Watras, along with deputy mayor Don Brudie, voted against.

"I don't oppose raising it but I think five times in one shot is a bit steep," Episcopia said. "I think we should raise it but 500 percent is huge." Episcopia said he'd "go along" with a 300 percent increase this year and another increase in 2011.

Trustee Dennis Donnelly, who made the motion to "better equip the village to recoup some of their costs," argued that a private entity is making the request.

"If Sears came to us for the exact same thing and decided to set off fireworks we would charge them $500 as well," he said. "This is not a charity. This is a club that has dues-paying members. We're talking about a $400 increase for the one time a year that it happens, it's pennies."

As of Friday morning, an employee in the club's administration office who didn't want his name used said Cherry Valley officials were not yet aware of the increase.

The annual event is a long-time tradition for club members, dating back at least 14 years, which is when the gentleman first started working there.

"The annual carnival is for our membership and the fireworks is a part of that display," he told Patch.

The village board has the right to change the fee schedule at any time. During this year's budget process, some fees were changed while others remained the same. Mayor Rothschild said this was an opportunity the board shouldn't let pass by.

"You're talking about $500 for a club that will have 900 people attending," he said. 

"We went through a budget process that was very, very difficult and these items were discussed. And now we've got the opportunity to put some of the expenses on the entities that are asking for special assistance, which is why they are asking for a special permit. I don't think it's unfair at all to charge them an appropriate rate of $500 when they have over 900 people come to that event," Mayor Rothschild added.

He reminded trustees too of the police and fire department presence required at the fireworks show, and the associated costs to the village. "You think we expend $500 making sure we have firemen and trucks and police coverage for this - for a private event? I think we should raise the fee, personally, because we also only have one other club that has a fireworks display. They have to put in their approval."

Two or three years back during the Garden City Country Club's annual fireworks show, Mayor Rothschild said officials became concerned when the wind was blowing across Stewart Avenue, causing a traffic condition because of the heavy smoke.

"It was a major issue. We could barely see down Stewart Avenue ... These are the issues we need to be concerned about so I don't think it's too much to ask," he said. "We're talking about $400 – not $4,000."

Trustee Brian Daughney added, "And anyone in the village can see [the fireworks]."

1st assistant fire chief Charles Cavarra said the department spends time at the site inspecting the conditions prior to and during the event while standby crews remain in the firehouse.

"We certainly want to make sure everything is in order," chief Cavarra said.

Trustee Laurence Quinn, who voted against the increase at this time, said it was "inappropriate to just decide to change the fee when we were going to have a unified discussion on all the fees." 

Brudie agreed. "This is on the eve of the people submitting their request for their fireworks event and then you're going to say, 'sure you can have it but the fee is times five?' I just think that's so inequitable and the wrong way of doing things," he said.

"I'm tired of hearing that the fire department, the police department spend time – that's why we pay a fire department and a police department. That's part of the tax base in the village. And as Trustee Daughney mentioned, people in the entire village see these fireworks. You can see them all over. It's not just the benefit of the club or the 900 people at the club."

Cherry Valley's annual Labor Day carnival and fireworks display takes place Monday, Sept. 6. The club also intends to erect a tent on Third Street at the dead-end closest to the club, extending approximately 80 to 100 feet east. 

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