Boom boom bust

Fourth of July fireworks burst over West Grand Traverse Bay and Traverse City.

TRAVERSE CITY — Traverse City and Fife Lake won’t be able to rely on Grand Traverse County to help fund Fourth of July firework shows.

County commissioners on a 4-3 vote rejected requests for donations from Traverse City Boom Boom Club and the Fife Lake Chamber of Commerce, which represents both the village and township.

Commissioners Sonny Wheelock Jr., Betsy Coffia and Bryce Hundley voted to enter into contracts with the Boom Boom Club and Fife Lake chamber to provide Independence Day firework displays. If passed, the club would have received $2,000 and the chamber $1,000.

The size of the displays depend on how much is raised, said Tim Hinkley, president of the Boom Boom Club. The club's first year raised about $19,000 which put on a 15-minute show, he said.

A total of $10,000 was given to the two entities between 2011 and 2015, said Nate Alger, county administrator. No money was given 2016-18 and no funds have been budgeted for this year, he said.

The county in the past contracted with the club and chamber because of liabilities associated with a fireworks show, said Dean Bott, finance director.

“In concept, I support this idea. I think it’s a public good,” Alger said. “I think there’s a significant benefit to the community for the fireworks, but I also understand all of the issues that go along with that.”

One such issue was Deputy Civil Counsel Kit Tholen’s firm stance that commissioners can contract for goods, equipment and services, but have no legal authority to make grants or donations.

Contracting with the club and chamber wouldn’t change that, he said. Commissioners regularly approve contracts for services, but those typically are done on behalf of a county department, Tholen said.

“Various departments can do all sorts of things the board of commissioners can’t do themselves, enough though the departments might have to come to the board of commissioners to get approval for spending,” he said.

Wheelock disagreed, noting that the finance department receives bills never seen by the board for services.

But Commissioner Gordie La Pointe worried it would be a slippery slope — the fireworks are of value to the community, but so are many things and approving one such request easily could lead to others being made.

“If you approve one, you better be prepared to approve all of them,” La Pointe said. “As far as us funding with taxpayer dollars, I have to vote against it.”

Hinkley, following the vote, thanked commissioners for their consideration.