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Centennial celebration could end up without festive spark

The city will celebrate its 100th birthday in July, but the affair may lack a certain sizzle.

Unable to secure a place to stage the annual fireworks display, the City Council voted Monday to spend the pyrotechnics budget on other aspects of the centennial celebration.

"In some places in the country they are trying to take God out of the pledge," council member John Kendall observed. "And now to take fireworks out of the Fourth of July, it's tough."

The city has not totally ruled out fireworks. If suitable land is made available, the council might reconsider.

Fireworks have been launched from the Three Sisters Springs property for several years. The spectacle, considered one of the best in the area, drew thousands of people to Crystal River.

But property owner Linda Goodman has not made the land available this year. She declined to elaborate Tuesday.

The Port Hotel offered two floatable platforms, but the size presents a safety concern and would limit the number of fireworks, making the display visible only near the water, city officials said.

A barge could be used but that would cost up to $15,000, an added expense the council did not seem willing to entertain. Moreover, there is no certainty a barge could be found and moved to Kings Bay.

The fireworks budget is $12,000, but nearly $5,000 of that is donations. The council voted 4-1 to direct any money to the 100th anniversary celebration.

Robert Holmes cast the minority vote, holding out hope for fireworks. "I like getting in my boat and watching them," he said.

In other action Monday, the council:

Voted unanimously to approve a bid by Schipper's Marine Construction Inc. to build a recreational pier at the end of NW Third Street. Schipper's of Crystal River was the only company to bid, presenting a $102,774 proposal. The project is covered by a state grant and matching city funds.

Approved a $150 change order for a retention area on SE Eighth Terrace. Kendall was incensed that the contractor, C.C. Croft, would not simply absorb the cost because it was a fraction of the overall project, which is more than $40,000.

But Wayne Walker of Crystal Engineering and Construction, which did the engineering work, responded with equal passion, saying there were other changes that did not cost the city. "I'm absolutely galled, more than galled, that you would sit up here tonight and debate this to the length that you have."

Debated a policy to provide police officers called to military duty with 30 days pay. The council approved the pay during its last meeting but it had to transfer money from a contingency fund.

The total transfer, which was approved, is $8,740. Kendall said that 30 days is overly generous and amounted to double dipping. "We are being used in an untimely fashion," he said.

Council member Susan Kirk, however, said several residents thanked her for voting to extend military pay from two weeks to 30 days. And resident Bud Kramer, a Vietnam veteran, said the city needs to support troops in a time of possible war.

_ Alex Leary can be reached at 564-3623 or learysptimes.com.

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