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Effort to Save Summer Celebration Fireworks Gains Steam; City Council OK's Kiwanis Stand Permit

The Mercer Island Community Fund announced a $10,000 matching grant to keep the fireworks show going this summer and Kiwanis's permit to sell fireworks for their annual fundraiser is approved.

Representatives from the Mercer Island Community Fund showed up at Monday night to announce an offer of up $10,000 in matching contributions to save the Summer Celebration fireworks display.

Appearing at City Hall at a City Council meeting, MICF Board President Benson Wong said the Island’s 25-year old community-based public charity was focused on promoting the quality of life in the community and recognized the fireworks show was an important part of the community's celebration.

“We’re so glad we can step up for this,” said MICF Board President Benson Wong. “For over 25 years, the Community Fund has been funding worthwhile, community-based opportunities right here on Mercer Island. It’s a fund that comes from Mercer Islanders and benefits Mercer Islanders. We’re so pleased to be able to make this type of difference. Now let’s pass the hat!” 

Traditionally part of the Summer Celebration festivities, the fireworks show budget of $22,850 was cut last year as the city tried to head-off a projected $6 million shortfall for the biennium. The city estimates 7,000 to 8,000 attendees usually watch from . Officials say they need to pay the money by June, several weeks in advance of the planned fireworks display to reserve the floating barge and purchase all the fireworks.

“It really was tough to pull the funding for our fireworks display out of our bi-annual budget this year. It’s just such a great community event that attracts Mercer Islanders of all ages,” said Mercer Island City Manager Rich Conrad. “This matching grant puts the possibility of this fantastic event back on the table. MICF has been a great community partner for us over the years—we’re very grateful for their generosity.”

Personal or small business donations of any size can be made online at www.micommunityfund.org, by contacting the festival director, Amber Britton at amber.britton@mercergov.org, or by mail to  or the. Drop-off donations are also accepted.

Mercer Island City Council also voted, 6-1 to allow the  to continue fundraising this year using their annual fireworks stand to sell approved "consumer" fireworks to the public for one week, from June 27  until 11 p.m. on July 4th. The stand will be located in the Parking lot near .

According to Mercer Island Fire Department Chief Chris Tubbs, the organization raised $18,000 last year from the event.

Most councilmembers appeared amenable to the permit request, but Councilman Mike Grady, who opposed the permit, asked the full Council for discussion on the matter.

"It again seems so contrary to me that Kiwanis is raising money off fireworks to help kids," he said."I really do find it beyond comprehension that we have to go through this every year."

Chief Tubbs and Police Chief Ed Holmes attested that private use of fireworks, which is permitted on Mercer Island, was the source of one self-extinguishing fire and approximately 25 police calls in 2010. Some of those incidents involved minor property damage, Holmes said.

Several local cities have banned fireworks, mostly due to hazard or costs they incur by responding to fireworks-related complaints. But if the city decided to ban fireworks, said Holmes, educating the public and enforcing the law would cost more.

"If there were a ban, officers could take some action against offenders," he said. "So we'll need more staffing on front-end for 'education' ... We don't take a lot of reports for fireworks."

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