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Strike that, reverse it: New Years Eve fireworks are back on track

December 7, 2017
Jessica Salmond - News Editor ( , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

At Monday's meeting, it seemed certain there would be no New Years Eve fireworks.

But by Thursday's meeting, there'd been a change of heart.

Mayor Dennis Boback said at the council's planning meeting Thursday that as long as someone could give him the check for the fireworks as soon as possible, he'd support the town helping to submit the permits.

"We're not spending a penny (on fireworks), it's whatever they can get, whatever $20,000 can buy," Boback said. "They just need help with the permitting. There's not a snowball's chance in heck they can get the permits in time."

On Monday, the town briefly discussed fireworks when the town manager, Roger Hernstadt, asked if the town wanted to help the team of residents running the fundraising to get the permits needed. At the time, the discussion was shut down and dismissed: the group would have to do it themselves.

To hold the fireworks, permit approvals must be obtained from a variety of local, state and federal agencies, including the fire department, the Federal Aviation Administration and the U.S. Coast Guard.

If the town submits the permits, it might have a little more clout to expedite their approval, Boback said.

"We'd be facilitating, not paying for, the permit," he said.

It would also be hard for the group that's been soliciting donations to raise the $20,000 for the fireworks to submit a permit application. It isn't an established group, organization or individual, it's just a few residents who have banded together. Jacki Liszak has been the point person for the fundraising efforts, separate and unrelated from the Chamber of Commerce.

Council Member Anita Cereceda said she supported helping the fundraisers out with the permitting, as long as Boback could secure the money.

Vice Mayor Tracey Gore opposed helping or paying for the permit.

"We already had this discussion. I don't want to fund both of these events, and now we're backtracking," she said.

But the town will already be funding the needed Lee County Sheriff's Office detail and staff to clean up Times Square after the ball drop, which the town is managing. The Sheriff's Office is one of the biggest expenses related to hosting any event that will draw in a lot of people.

"We're going to be paying for all the same stuff as before, just not the fireworks," Boback said.

The news was good fortune for Jacki Liszak, who has coordinated getting donations. Without a real organization to back a permit application, it seemed like the fireworks wouldn't happen. She also thought that the cost of liability insurance - which would have been thousands for a fireworks show, she said - would have been more than any donation could cover. But since last Monday's meeting. Liszak learned that a $5 million insurance policy is part of the fireworks purchase. With the insurance worries out of the way and help with the permitting, fireworks should go forward as always as long as the permits are acquired in time.

"The Mayor came to the rescue," she said.

Boback used to organize the Fourth of July parade for many years. He said the permitting process can be complicated for someone who's not familiar to figure out, and with less than a month until the new year, time is running short.

"People expect it. We've had fireworks forever," he said. "I'm really glad everyone can come out to see the fireworks on New Year's Eve."



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