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Citrus Heights council votes 3-2 to fund fireworks show, patriotic event

Citrus Heights city hall
Night-view of Citrus Heights City Hall. // CH Sentinel

Sentinel staff report–
In a controversial vote Thursday night the Citrus Heights City Council narrowly approved spending up to $80,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funds to pay for a patriotic event this summer that will include a 20-minute professional fireworks show.

The council was divided on whether to include the fireworks show with the event, as feedback received from the public noted concern for pets and veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder who can be negatively affected by the loud sounds of fireworks.

Citing resident input, Mayor Tim Schaefer during the meeting proposed dropping the fireworks show from plans for the event. His motion was seconded by Councilwoman Jayna Karpinski-Costa, but failed to get the necessary three votes of support.

A subsequent motion to move ahead with planning a full event with fireworks included was approved, with Vice Mayor Bret Daniels being joined by Councilwoman Porsche Middleton and MariJane Lopez-Taff in support. Schaefer and Karpinski-Costa opposed the plan.

The event is slated to be held on the weekend before the Fourth of July and will include music, food and other festivities — although planning is still in its preliminary stages and details are limited. The main venue has been determined to be City Hall, with viewing of the fireworks show from Van Maren Park. Fireworks would begin around 9:30 p.m., but other aspects of the event would begin earlier.

City Manager Ash Feeney clarified to the council that funding of up to $80,000 for event is “not all fireworks,” noting costs for traffic control, musical performances, stage setup, and other ancillary costs. Funding will come from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), which initially was restricted to pandemic-related expenses but later gave entities broad discretion in how to use the first $10 million in funds.

Related: City says broad use of federal COVID rescue funds now allowed

Citrus Heights was allocated just under $15.7 million in ARPA funds and has approved funding to go towards police staffing and vehicles, a small business COVID Recovery Grant, infrastructure financing planning at the mall, technology upgrades, the city’s new Beautification Crew, and other costs.

Comments on the plan
The council heard public comment prior to the vote from two people who spoke via Zoom, one of whom suggested the city use the funds instead to crack down on illegal fireworks. Another empathized with concerns about pets being “terrified” by fireworks, while noting positively that the show would only last 20 minutes and asking why the city’s Red, White & Blue Parade was discontinued in 2019.

From 2019: Citrus Heights says Red, White & Blue Parade won’t be happening

Two written comments against the fireworks proposal were also read aloud during the meeting, with one citing a letter published in The Sentinel that advocated for residents to be polled about how best to use funds. Several other letters about fireworks were also published in The Sentinel. Additional public comments were printed in a packet and distributed to the council as well.

“On behalf of the dogs, I’m not going to support it,” said Karpinski-Costa in explaining her position prior to the vote, also noting concern for nonprofits who rely on fireworks sales and for veterans who suffer from the noise. “I think that we just take this money and flush it down the toilet; it’s just gone in 20 minutes.”

Middleton said she was “a little bit torn about it after hearing all the comments,” noting she has a son with autism and her father is a veteran who suffers from PTSD. She also suggested going “a step further” in the future with a ban on all fireworks, but opted to vote in favor of the show.

Councilwoman Lopez-Taff, who voted in support of the show, also said she was “torn” after hearing input from the public.

“I really do feel that a community event is important, this is our 25th year of cityhood, she said. “I think it is right and proper to allocate funds for a fun community gathering around a patriotic event, so maybe fireworks are not the answer, but I believe community gathering is always a good idea.”

The city’s mayor appeared most swayed by public input, saying: “My personal feeling is I think the fireworks display would be fine, but I’m gonna listen to the folks in the city and say ‘yea, probably can’t support the fireworks portion of this.'”

Vice Mayor Daniels said while he shared concern for those with PTSD, he noted the city’s 20-minute show would pale in comparison to several weeks of loud, illegal fireworks that are known to occur every year.

“This is way less than 1% of the budget and will probably result in the largest amount of Citrus Heights residents coming together in a community event,” said Daniels.

Want to share your thoughts on the city’s plans for a fireworks show and patriotic event? Click here to submit a letter to the editor.

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