Feb. 28, 2017 PLYMOUTH EAGLE.
Plymouth Michigan News
Plymouth Township Supervisor Kurt Heise is weighing the benefits of the 4th of July picnic and fireworks display, a long tradition in the township.
Heise told members of the board of trustees at their regular meeting last week that he felt the elaborate event including the picnic, fireworks and a private VIP party “is not the proper role of government.” He said the past administration spent an enormous amount of man-hours on the event.
“It’s expensive and burdensome, taxing on manpower and causes unnecessary overtime,” Heise said of the event.
Neither the picnic, the fireworks or the VIP party generated revenue for the township.
Former Treasurer Ron Edwards spearheaded and organized the celebration which included a public fireworks display and picnic along with a far more upscale invitation-only celebration open only to those who donated or contributed to funding the event and his other invited guests.
Edwards would send solicitation letters requesting donation checks made payable to Plymouth Township, suggesting that the contributions were public funds. In reality, the VIP party was a private function hosted by Edwards and restricted to about 700 invited-only guests at Hilltop Golf Course. In addition to the contributors and friends the guest list included prominent community officials and political advocates.
Heise, who has long been critical of the VIP party, told board members last week he had already made the decision to discontinue the private VIP event.
Heise indicated that donation solicitations written on township stationery by the township staff, on township time, placed businesses and vendors in an uncomfortable situation. He had previously remarked that the tactic was damaging to the reputation and image of the community.
Heise added that the optics of the “elites” adorned with flower leis dining on prime rib while the “commoners” sat on the hill to watch the show “hurts our image as a welcoming and inclusive community.”
The $41,500 spent last year with a fireworks contractor was raised entirely by solicitation of township businesses. Heise cited charges from a $4,721.61 invoice recently submitted by golf course contractor, Billy Casper, Inc.
The invoice, dated just after the August Primary election, was for the July 4 VIP party and included charges for keg beer, $296, Northern Haserot Tenderloin Steaks, $1,614; Salmon, $1,149; entertainment, $400 and the chef, $500, among other expenditures.
Rita Gajewski whose home backs to the township park told the officials she’s “had enough of the problems” the event causes including trash, illegal parking, people coming into her yard and fireworks landing on her home and grass. She claimed that last year, the eighth year her family has lived in the home, was the worst.
“We had to turn on our sprinkler system because of the fireworks landing on our (dry) grass. People parked everywhere, it was awful,” she said.
Police Chief Tom Tiderington commented that every year the fireworks display has grown and has become increasingly more difficult to manage safely.
“It’s too large for a residential neighborhood. I’m not for having fireworks at that location. It’s not safe. Kids are running back and forth across Ann Arbor Trail. This is something I can’t support,” Tiderington told the trustees.
Fire Chief Dan Phillips concurred with Tiderington and said the problem fire department personnel have in an emergency is the number of parked cars and access.
“In past years we spent thousands to water the grass in the golf course just prior to the event to keep it wet,” he said.
Heise said he would take the issue before the board for a vote if a sponsor should come forward to fund the event.
“If we are to continue the fireworks, we need a sponsor and I’ve talked to some of our businesses, We need a line item 501(c)3, for example Plymouth Community Fireworks fund, but so far no one is interested. They could put their name on it. We’ll keep the door open,” he said.
Trustee Chuck Curmi said he did not favor continuing the fireworks. He said he was aware the City of Plymouth has a DDA (Downtown Development Authority) to support entertainment costs, which is helpful to the downtown.
“It’s not our job to entertain people,” Curmi said.