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Village Board Raises Fireworks Permit Fee to $500

After a lengthy debate, the village board of trustees voted in favor of increasing fireworks permit fees from $100 to $500. The fee hike was announced on the very same day that the Cherry Valley Club submitted their fireworks permit for their annual Labor Day Carnival on Monday, Sept. 6. Deputy Mayor Donald Brudie and Trustees Nicholas Episcopia, Lawrence Quinn and John Watras voted against and Mayor Robert J. Rothschild, Trustees Dennis Donnelly, Brian Daughney and Andrew Cavanaugh voted in favor of the increase. The mayor voted twice and broke the tie.

Trustee Dennis Donnelly made the motion to update the fee on permits for fireworks. “I know that the permit fee at the moment is $100 for fireworks. I would like to make a motion to make that $500, which would better equip the village to recoup some of their costs in issuing permits for the fireworks,” Donnelly said.

The mayor initiated a discussion on the item and Trustee Episcopia posed a question about the amount of the increase. “I don’t oppose raising it but I think five times in one shot is a bit steep. I would think we should raise it but 500 percent is huge,” Episcopia stated.

The mayor asked the firemen and police if additional expenses were likely during events with fireworks. “Do you think we expend $500 making sure we have firemen and trucks and police coverage for this, for a private event?...I think we should raise the fee, personally, because we also only have one other club that has a fireworks display and I believe it’s the day before and they haven’t put in their approval yet.”

Trustee Quinn questioned the timing of the fee increase as many organizations submitted permits with the understanding that the cost would be $100. Quinn said, “Can we at this time decide to change the fee when we had a set fee already for these things?” The mayor said that the board was permitted to change the fees and Counsel Gerard Fishberg also confirmed that fee schedules can change.

Deputy Mayor Donald Brudie expressed his opinion on the issue. “I concur with Trustee Episcopia, I think that this is on the eve of the people submitting their request for their firework permit and then you are going to say ‘sure you can have it but the fee is times five,’ I just think that’s so inequitable, that’s the wrong way of doing things,” he said. Brudie added that while police and fire departments may be needed, it’s what residents pay taxes for.

The mayor said the only issue he had with the board’s comments was that it was already talked about earlier in the year. “We went through a budget process that was very, very difficult and these items were discussed. And now we’ve got the opportunity to put some of the expenses on the entities that are asking for special assistance, which is why they are asking for a special permit. I don’t think it’s unfair at all to charge them an appropriate rate of $500 when they have over 900 people come to that event,” Mayor Rothschild said.

Trustee Donnelly added that, in this particular instance, a private entity is seeking a permit. “If Sears came to us for the exact same thing and decided that they are going to set off fireworks we would charge them $500 as well,” he said. He went on to say that the entity was not a charity but a club that has dues-paying members. “We’re talking about a $400 increase for the one time of year that it happens, it’s pennies.”

One of the members of the fire department stated that firemen will spend time at the site inspecting the conditions prior to the event and standby crews will be available. The mayor also said that the board should’ve raised these fees three or four years ago because of the expenses. “Two or three years ago when the Garden City Country Club did it, we were very concerned because the wind was blowing across Stewart Avenue. It was a major issue. We could barely see down Stewart Avenue because I drove through the smoke. These are the issues we have to be concerned about. I don’t think it’s too much to ask.”

During a citizens’ comment period, a resident expressed her views on the permit increase. “This is something that Cherry Valley has done for many, many years and I think the village should have anticipated, at this time of year, that an application of a permit would have come forth for your decision and I think it would’ve been a more fair proposal for you to have the fees already established rather than doing it the night that the permit was applied for,” she said. The resident added that she hoped the updated schedule of fees would be available for the next board meeting.

The mayor said that he didn’t disagree with the citizen’s comments. “There are certain decisions sometimes that you need to make, to make things right and do things that we promised we were going to do. That was one of the items we wanted to do,” the mayor stated.