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Published: Wednesday, 7/1/2009

Swanton fireworks to go off as planned

BY DAVID PATCH
BLADE STAFF WRITER

SWANTON - Swanton's Independence Day fireworks will be held at the high school football stadium after all.

Village council, which last month voted to move the July 3 display to Swanton Memorial Park this year, last week reversed that decision after leaders from the Swanton Fire Department and Swanton Chamber of Commerce both stated support for staying at Swanton High School.

Not only does the high school have more parking, using its stadium for spectators facilitates collecting donations for the show, said Neil Toeppe, the chamber's executive director.

"It makes a whole lot more sense to hold it over at the football field, where it's been held in the past," Mr. Toeppe said.

And village Fire Chief James Guy said that while the park location was workable, the school was favorable for both crowd control and managing the fireworks show itself, since the area around the school isn't as built-up as the area around the park.

At the park, Chief Guy said, "you can tailor distances" to keep the pyrotechnics safe, but a late-arriving wind shift "could be problematic." A fireworks show at the park also would attract spectators to line up nearby along busy Airport Highway, which the chief said could cause traffic-safety issues and make it harder to clean up afterward.

After village council's May 11 vote to move the show to the park, village administrator Jon Gochenour said the recommendation was made "just to do something different," while acknowledging that the move would require the show to be different from past years' because of nearby homes and businesses.

But following the vote last week to go back to the high school, Mr. Gochenour gave an additional motive for the initial decision: avoiding the use of Swanton Board of Education property at a time when the school board and the village were at odds over the school district's use of village facilities for recreation programs.

That conflict appears to have been settled, although as of late last week a formal contract establishing terms for the recreational programs had yet to be signed. Cheryl Swisher, school district treasurer, said a lease with the village was under review Friday by school attorneys but she did not anticipate any problems.

Chief Guy said his only concern about going back to the football field was that vendors might not be aware of the last-minute location change, but Mr. Toeppe said they had been notified and that the football field was a favorable location for them, too.

The park, he said, "is a large open area where people just kind of drift in."

While the fireworks show has no admission charge, Mr. Toeppe said, the chamber of commerce requests donations, and in the past such donations have contributed significantly to the show's budget.

Any surplus is used first to reimburse the village for public-safety costs it incurs to support the show, with anything left over after that to be set aside for future fireworks shows, he said.



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