Provincetown News and Information
There’s a slim chance the Fourth of July fireworks will go off as usual — or at least on a date close to the holiday.
The Board of Selectmen decided Monday night to try to find a way, albeit at the last minute, to produce the fireworks sometime around the traditional date. They will meet informally later this week and officially on Monday, March 20, with town staff and volunteers to try to patch together a fireworks show, and to mull over ideas such as using a private barge or importing the fireworks from overseas.
The pyrotechnics, which are usually set off from the inner harbor as darkness settles on the town, were cancelled two weeks ago by the selectmen over worries about public safety.
An outcry over the cancellation has been growing across town, particularly among business owners.
“Those people asked if there were going to be fireworks, and we told them there were going to be fireworks,” marina operator Vaughan Cabral said on Monday of 170 boat owners who made reservations for July 4 at his business.
One “little bunch of hooligans” shouldn’t be allowed to affect everyone’s Fourth of July celebration, Cabral added, referring to the series of street fights last year on the Fourth that resulted in a new, expanded plan for public safety for this year’s celebration.
Cabral was one of about 20 people at Town Hall on Monday who spoke in favor of fireworks on the Fourth. Some in the room said fireworks attract a crowd that is economically important to the town. Others said cancelling the fireworks was un-American, given the signing of the Mayflower Compact in the harbor in 1620. A few mentioned the Special Town Meeting vote from last November which overwhelmingly endorsed having fireworks on the Fourth.
“We’re not potted plants and it doesn’t feel good to be treated like a potted plant,” resident Marcene Marcoux said, referring to the sense of being set aside.
It was during the review of the public safety plan two weeks ago, on Feb. 27, that the selectmen were confronted with news that a shortage of ambulances existed for the Fourth. Fire Chief Mike Trovato said then that he couldn’t sign off on the fireworks permit, as is his right, without assurances that extra ambulances would be available. He said he wouldn’t have those assurances until May or June, well after April Town Meeting where funding for the celebration would be considered.
The selectmen then voted unanimously that night, Feb. 27, to cancel the fireworks for 2006.
On Monday, though, most of the members of that board acknowledged that, if the public safety concerns could be overcome, then fireworks on or near the Fourth might be a good idea.
The fireworks would potentially be paid for by two Town Meeting articles that will be considered in April.
Still, the discontent that Cabral expressed boiled over on Monday when the crowd learned that the barge and company hired to produce the fireworks had been let go shortly after the selectmen’s vote on Feb. 27, and that hiring them back was nearly impossible, given the competition among towns.
“What I’m hearing is that there is no Fourth,” Clarence Walker said, standing up suddenly at the microphone. “I don’t understand how we got to this point here. It’s a fait accompli. … I’m so surprised. How long have we been here? Two hours?”
The town usually hires a barge, which costs $6,000 and is booked a year in advance, from Tucker Roy Marine Towing and Salvage, Inc., of Mattapoisett. The fireworks cost around $10,000 and are ordered from a company in Seabrook, N.H., called Oceanstate, whose owner has worked with the town for 10 years.
The meeting on Monday worsened when it came out that Provincetown had not only lost its fireworks contract for this year’s Fourth but could end up on the bottom of a waiting list in future years as well.
Provincetown Business Guild executive director Gabby Hanna angrily asked why the fireworks contract had been cancelled so quickly, and said that selectmen chair Cheryl Andrews had misrepresented the problem just after the selectmen’s first vote, by asking the PBG for help, but failing to mention the cancelling of the contracts.
“What is the deadline?” Hanna asked repeatedly and finally got the answer that the fireworks contract would normally be confirmed by Jan. 1 but that Oceanstate, because it had dealt for so long with the town, was willing to wait for April Town Meeting to ensure funding.
Amid extensive grumbling in the audience, local attorney Chris Snow was encouraged to stand. He said he was very disappointed with the idea of having no fireworks this summer, and with the town possibly dropping to the bottom of a waiting list for future years. “This is not just a breather,” Snow said, referring to a remark made earlier in the evening by Andrews. “I hope this is not a permanent mistake.”
Deputy Director of Public Works Sandy Turner, who handles the fireworks contracts, said on Tuesday that given the existing relationship with Oceanstate she doubted the town would linger at the bottom of a waiting list for long.
Were the fireworks killed just because of public safety issues or really because the budget did not allow for the hiring of more public safety officials.
If the latter is true, how can a rich town like Provincetown not have the funds? Real estate prices are very high while few people live there year round let alone send kids through the school or use the elderly housing.
The Provincetown Visitor Services Board takes over $400,000 in room tax money to spend on getting more tourists into town yet there’s no money in the budget.
Wake up Provincetown and listen to the people.