Elgin City Council to debate whether to have a downtown Fourth of July fireworks display
By Mike Danahey email@example.com @DanaheyECN January 20, 2014 3:46PM
The Elgin City Council is considering whether to again have fireworks light up the sky over the city during future Independence Day celebrations. The city last sponsored an Elgin display in 2008. | Sun-Times Media file
Updated: February 22, 2014 6:16AM
ELGIN — The city council Wednesday night once again is set to discuss what, if anything, it will do for offering Fourth of July fireworks in Elgin.
In December, by a 5-4 vote, the council nixed contributing for a third year to the Northwest Fourth Fest on the Sears Centre grounds in Hoffman Estates, just east of Elgin. Casting the nay votes were Terry Gavin, Anna Moeller, Tish Powell, John Prigge, and Toby Shaw.
At that meeting, Powell suggested the city look into having its own show downtown.
Shaw, working with city staff, conducted preliminary research which found that Elgin Community College and the city Sports Complex — where they previously had been held — were not viable choices, and that holding a show downtown could cost about $73,000, including labor from public safety and public works personnel.
For each of the Northwest Fourth Fest’s first two summers, Elgin contributed $15,000 in cash and $5,000 in public safety staff time to the Fourth of July fireworks night at the fest. Hanover Township and the village of Hanover Township also have been contributing funds to the event, which had Kia as its major corporate sponsor in 2013.
The Fourth Fest fireworks have drawn crowds in excess of 20,000 spectators.
Supporters, including Elgin Mayor David Kaptain, saw the event as a way to promote Elgin, work with neighboring towns, and host a show for a city that does not seem to have a viable place to hold one of its own.
No city shows
Elgin last held its own Fourth fireworks at the Sports Complex on the far west side in 2008. It cited the recession as a major reason for not holding any in-town shows since then. The complex butts up to the now-completed Highlands Golf Course, which disallows it as a spot for such a show in Elgin, officials said.
There frequently were traffic issues when the complex was home to the event. And in 2008, a $30,000 show that was supposed to be 30 minutes long ended eight minutes into the display; Central States Fireworks told the city a computer error led to the grand finale shooting off early that night.
According to supporting material for Wednesday’s council meeting, the city’s costs for the fireworks and for related public safety and public works labor averaged $64,000 for the last three times they were offered.
As Shaw and the Wednesday meeting material both note, there are few, if any, viable options for a show in 2014. However, they said the former Sanfilippo property near the Elgin Sports Complex on the southwest side, which is now owned by the city, might be a choice once it is developed.
One suggestion was to hold a fireworks display downtown, shooting off on or along the river, as the city did when it hosted the Fox Fire Fest last decade. The supporting material claims fireworks would run about $1,500 a minute for a close-proximity show like that, meaning a 10-minute event would cost $15,000 and a 20-minute display $22,000.
Staff estimates police costs for crowd and traffic control would run about $15,000; a fire department watch and having an ambulance close by would be about $8,000; public works detail for signage and street cleaning would run $3,000, with another $2,350 spent on land management; rental equipment for a sound system and portable toilets would cost about $12,000; and marketing and advertising the event would run another $5,000.
The would bring the total for city services to $45,350 — and the grand total to $60,350 for a 10-minute show and $67,350 for a 20-minute show.
The material notes that the setting could draw a crowd which would benefit downtown restaurants and the Grand Victoria Casino.
“If the (Independence Day) parade were moved to late afternoon, a larger evening event could be created and end with a fireworks display,” it states.
As for disadvantages, the material notes, “Parking and traffic would be difficult and costly to manage; and because close proximity fireworks do not go as high in the sky as traditional fireworks, people would have to be in or very near Festival Park to see them.”
By contrast, West Dundee Village Manager Joe Cavallaro said that the 30-minute half hour fireworks show at the Heritage Fest held last September in conjunction with East Dundee ran $7,000. The fireworks are shot off from a footbridge across the Fox River between the two towns.
According to Cavallaro, West Dundee spent $9,715.90 for police, fire and public works overtime related to its offerings for the four-day event. Costs for renting a stage, sound, lighting, Dumpsters, portable toilets, tables, tents, insurance and such were about $27,000.
Correspondent Erin Sauder contributed to this story.