By Dan Harkins
DEBARY - The not-for-profit organization formed a decade ago to alleviate the city budget from having to pay for various festivals throughout the year has created a bang with its two-year-old Fourth of July celebration in Gemini Springs Park.
But Marcia Steele, the new president of the Community Partnership Program, told the DeBary City Council at its recent meeting the group can't afford to fund the fireworks.
"It's the pivotal point of the event," she said. "Without that, what's the point of having a celebration? And if we can't get enough money to support the fireworks, we will have to cancel" the Fourth of July celebration.
For the event's first year, said City Manager Dan Parrott, the city paid a few thousand dollars for insurance, a requirement since the event takes place in a county park.
The second year, the city paid $8,200 for insurance, public safety and lighting.
And for the budget to be approved in September, the city is now set to pay $9,300 for insurance, public safety and lighting, plus $15,000 for 15 minutes of fireworks.
A slight majority of 3-2 told Mr. Parrott to find a way to absorb the expense.
"It's now to the point where people have shown their desire for this," said Councilman Dan Hunt, "It's here, people are attending it, and it's time for the city of DeBary to step up. It's kind of our baby now."
Mayor Bob Garcia and Councilman Nick Koval voted against putting the expense on the proposed budget.
"If we have an organization taking care of events and not being a financial burden on the city, I'm for that," he said. "If it's going to cost the city money, then I think we should go ahead and do it," meaning to host the whole affair.
Mr. Koval had a case built against CPP, an organization with which he and his wife were once involved.
First, he pointed out that CPP had yet to file for its 501(c)3 status, hampering its ability to raise money from larger donors. Ms. Steele said she just recently took the reins of the organization and filing and paying the fee to officially become a nonprofit organization is a priority.
He also was against another request by CPP last week: to use a portion of Rob Sullivan Park for the organization's Autumn Festival on Oct. 27, a smaller event attended by about 2,500 for which the group plans to possibly offer fireworks, too.
"There are many residents in DeBary who have never seen Rob Sullivan Park," said Ms. Steele, who organized the event last year in Gemini Springs.
Before the issue could even come up, Councilman Koval tried to strike the fireworks and Sullivan Field issues from the agenda, since representatives from Sullivan Field were against the site being used.
His colleagues didn't allow it.
"All we need is one person to trash that area and then we're sitting with the bill," Councilman Koval said. "Second, if we do this, do we open Pandora's Box, where (various community groups) come in here and want to use our field? And how do we respond to that?"
Ms. Steele said the event would be held on the soccer fields at Sullivan Park, on durable Bermuda grass, not the pristine baseball fields recently used for a regional Little League tournament.
That was good enough for a majority of council members.
Councilwoman Lita Handy-Peters told Councilman Koval that the city has already allowed community events at the park.
"There was a Family Fun Day in that very spot, and it was very well-attended," she said. "We had a record crowd and that very evening we had fireworks as well, so I believe we've already set a precedent."
Councilman Koval still didn't budge: "Maybe if we didn't have fireworks at all these different events, they could use that money for the Fourth of July."