The skies over Pittsburg will be relatively dark on July 4 this year, as the annual fireworks display has fallen victim to city budget cuts.


The skies over Pittsburg will be relatively dark on July 4 this year, as the annual fireworks display has fallen victim to city budget cuts.

John Van Gorden, interim city manager, said the city has had to cut approximately $700,000 from this year's budget, and the annual fireworks show, which cost $17,000 last year, was included in those cuts. 

"I am a big supporter of the Fourth of July and the fireworks," Van Gorden said, "but sometimes you have to make the cuts that are necessary."

Mayor Pam Henderson said the decision to cut the fireworks show was "difficult," but one that had to be made.

"We want to be patriotic and supportive of our community, but at the same time, (the cost of fireworks) is almost one employee's salary," she said. "Do we want to spend roughly $20,000 to go up in smoke in 15 minutes or would we rather keep an employee?"

Jeff Wilbert, interim parks director, said he is disappointed that the fireworks display has been canceled this year, but added he supports the city's decision to make the cut.

"Although we hate to have to cancel the fireworks this year, we also realize that with the economy situation the way it is, it was a wise thing to do," he said. "We're looking at every possible way to save money so that there are not more cuts that have to take place down the line. 

"It's simply a matter of dollars and cents," he said. "Spending $17,000 up in the air for fireworks is nice when it's something we can afford."

Wilber said all of the other traditional Fourth of July festivities will be conducted as planned at Lincoln Park. He said he hopes the loss of the fireworks show does not deter people from enjoying the day's activities.

"I certainly hope people will come out and help celebrate the Fourth of July in the park," Wilbert said.

City officials said they hope to continue the popular fireworks show, which Van Gorden said has been conducted for at least 40 years, in 2010.

"This is a big blow to the parks department and the community," Van Gorden said. "Hopefully it's just going to be this year, because we do bring a lot of people to the parks in the evening."

Van Gorden said the city budget cuts are a result of two major financial blows: a reduction in state funding due to its budget crisis and last year's closing of Superior Industries.

"The state gave us a list of money we were not going to receive this year," he said. "We then had to turn around and make cuts to our general fund and cuts in the water and sewer department. We lost $300,000 from water and sewer when Superior closed."

Along with canceling the fireworks show, a hiring freeze also has been implemented as a cost-saving measure. Henderson said the city has eight full-time vacancies that the city may not fill because of budget cuts. Those vacancies include three police officers and a fireman, as well as finance and street department positions, according to Van Gorden. He also said there are several part-time positions "that we normally have" that have been cut this year.

"Hiring those positions has been put on hold and we just have to see how everything goes," he said.