Despite budget woes, Gilbert will sponsor a Fourth of July fireworks show at Mesquite High School this summer after all.
But one of the town's other special events will probably be erased from the calendar so Gilbert can afford $15,000 for pyrotechnics and about $25,000 in overtime for police, fire and public works services.
The council voted 6-0 Tuesday in favor of forging ahead with a show at Mesquite. At the same meeting, the groupapproved laying off 22 employees in the Development Services Department.
The fireworks decision came after reviewing a report from the Special Events Task Force, which found the town spends about $350,000 a year providing services to special events.
When Councilwoman Linda Abbott asked whether fireworks were essential to any Fourth of July celebration, most of the other members agreed with Mayor Steve Berman's feeling that "a Fourth of July without fireworks is like Christmas without a Christmas tree."
Berman said Gilbert would have to prioritize its special events to figure out which were worth hanging onto until sales tax and other revenue bounces back from the current recession. The council directed the Parks and Recreation board to look into the matter.
"Clearly we're going to have to give some things up, and maybe all we're going to have is the Fourth of July and Gilbert Days, until things get better," he said.
The town's other community events include the Mayor's New Year's Eve Party, the Global Village Festival, the Riparian Luminaria event, So Long to Summerfest, and the recently added holiday lighting and concerts at the Civic Center, which replaced the town's Spring Festival.
The nonprofit Gilbert Promotional Corporation has organized the town's Fourth of July and Gilbert Days celebrations for 25 years, and with the exception of 2003 and 1998, the town and GPC have sponsored a fireworks display over the last decade, sometimes outside the town limits. About 5,000 to 8,000 people attend each year.
Bobbi Smith, a member of the Parks and Recreation Board, said she's ready to begin the process of determining which town events rank in the minds of residents, but it's too early for her to speculate on which might get the ax.
"I think it's a good idea which builds on what we had accomplished with the Special Events Task Force, and it's another opportunity to clarify what that new process is," she said.
The task force did not establish any kind of ranking for the town's special events, but it did recommend a new procedure where organizers of town events would have to apply for Gilbert assistance.