NB Politicus

The Day After: Should fireworks be free or come with a fee?

Posted in city government, municipal budget, New Britain, Parks and Recreation by nbpoliticus on July 5, 2021

The 4th of July Show Tab This Year Was $60K and $10 A Car Load

By John McNamara

No one can deny that fireworks on the Fourth of July brings a community together. It is America’s birthday tradition that can awe and delight children or the child in all of us. And after 15 months of social distancing because of COVID, New Britain’s 4th was a welcome return to normalcy.

The City of New Britain obliged for the pyrotechnics this year putting up $60,000 of your tax money at the June 23rd Common Council meeting. The transfer of funds provided $24,999 for the show and $35,001 in overtime and salaries. Alderman-At Large Chris Anderson was the sole Council vote against the appropriation. His vote, however, was not about being a killjoy. I’m hoping he took in the show from his Buell Street home’s front yard just a block or so from the rockets red glare without paying the $10 fee.

“I voted no because I am concerned about this expenditure given our other budget needs and because the event will not be free,” wrote Anderson in one of his regular Facebook updates on Council business.

New Britain’s regionally popular “Great American Boom”, held at Stanley Quarter Park until last year and free to all, has been raised as a budget issue in years past. Some of the costs previously were met with fees on vendors and private contributions. Insurance man and former Alderman Carlo Carlozzi, for example, led the way a few years back in securing a major grant from Liberty Mutual to cover expenses. For the most part the bulk of expenses, however, depend on public appropriations.

New Britain was one of a handful of communities that went on with the show last year despite COVID concerns. Like this year the “drive in fireworks show” at Willow Brook Park near the baseball stadium required pre-registration at $10 per car load, a nominal fee that raised some but not a lot for the city’s Fireworks Fund. It’s been one of several public events that the Parks and Recreation Department assesses for admission. The fireworks fee undoubtedly had more to do with social distancing than revenue but it should be said that it could have been made free to city residents.

The change of venue these last two years also returned the city’s fireworks back to Willow Brook where it once was held. That’s a welcome change that should be made permanent. Holding an event drawing in excess of 20,000 people at Stanley Quarter in the residential Belvedere neighborhood creates a parking nightmare and heightened public safety concerns (Full disclosure: it’s my neighborhood).

Ideally, if the city restores the Great American Boom to a free-to-all event next year it ought to be a Greater New Britain event with costs shared by surrounding towns with a healthy dose of corporate, civic-minded philanthropy.

Alderman Anderson’s points on nickel and diming residents and striking a balance on budget priorities are well taken. Blowing $60K on its own on America’s birthday to light up New Britain night sky is a lot for a financially stressed city government dependent on borrowing.

Looking Ahead: Stanley Quarter Park Makeover, New Playground Take Shape For Spring

Posted in CCSU, environment, New Britain history, Parks and Recreation by nbpoliticus on March 15, 2020

The early days of Spring require all of us to practice social distancing and avoid gatherings in public places in the effort to flatten the curve of the coronavirus pandemic.  But there are things to look forward to with warm weather ahead including a visit to the city’s parks when it is safe to do so.  Stanley Quarter Park, one of the city’s gems, will be be even better in 2020.  Improvements to the city’s popular Stanley Quarter Park at Blake Road and Stanley Street near the Central CT State University campus are nearing completion in time for spring and warm weather months.

The $1.2 million Parks & Recreation Project, approved by the Common Council in August 2019,  adds family and child friendly features: a new picnic area with grills, waterside exercise equipment and games and a gazebo overlooking the park.

Notably the project replaces a poorly landscaped and aging playground near the Boulevard entrance and adds a new parking lot next to existing basketball courts.

 

For decades Stanley Quarter Park has hosted the city’s Great American Boom, a regionally attended July 4th celebration. It has also been a site for CCSU’s men’s and women’s track & field teams. In the 1960s and through the 1970s the city even operated a ski slope along Blake Road with a rope tow and night lighting that made it popular in the winter.

 

A newly-landscaped playground is one of the major improvements at Stanley Quarter Park that will be heavily used by children and families when the playground is completed.

View from a newly constructed gazebo overlooking the pond at Stanley Quarter Park.

by John McNamara