It's still a few months before Independence Day, but political fireworks already are going off at Aurora Town Hall over the community's planned celebration.
The Town Board had been expected to vote Monday on a joint village-town fireworks contract with Skylighters Fireworks of Orchard Park but instead decided to do nothing for now.
"Why should we entertain a contract?" Councilman Jeffrey Harris said. "Why not give it to the village? It's their park. . . . It's their program. Let them run it."
The growing attendance and increasing popularity of the community's July 3 Independence Day festivities in Hamlin Park topped the board's discussion. The day features a parade, park activities and concert, capped by evening fireworks. By nightfall, it's not unusual to see at least 10,000 people crammed into the village park -- probably half of them from other communities -- to watch the fireworks, town leaders estimated.
"I'd like some assurance that if there is a medical emergency, that someone could get to them in that mass of people," Councilman Dwight Krieger said, also noting the heavy pedestrian and car traffic on side streets after the fireworks.
Months ago, town officials asked the village to consider switching the fireworks to July 4 from the traditional July 3 -- but to no avail. The town's thinking was that by changing the day, more non-Aurora residents would stay home for their own towns' celebrations, instead of coming to East Aurora. But Mayor David DiPietro was adamant that the event be held July 3, as it has been for years.
The town also is worried about what that number of people could do to the park's newly redone baseball diamond, which just received $18,000 worth of improvements. Already, the town is taking precautions to fence in the grassy area surrounding the pitcher's mound to prevent fireworks enthusiasts from plunking down their lawn chairs on fresh sod.
"It is a wonderful event, but there's a limit to what the park can take," said Peggy Cooke, town recreation director. Cooke said the town had wanted people banned from sitting on the ball diamond's infield dirt that night, as well, but ended up compromising with the village and agreed only to fence off the pitcher's mound.
The village approved the $8,500 fireworks contract earlier this month and was looking for town approval Monday. Instead, Supervisor Terence Yarnall said he would contact the village to discuss outstanding concerns and safety issues.
"None of us want to do away with it, but we want it to be safe," Harris said.
Cooke said an emergency medical team and ambulance would be stationed in the park that night.
In other business, the board backed Yarnall's appointment of East Aurora resident Susan Mascia as his assistant and budget officer, effective next Monday. Mascia will be paid $43,000 as the assistant and will receive a $3,486 stipend as budget officer.
Mascia, who Yarnall said has government finance experience working for the City of Buffalo and the Internal Revenue Service, succeeds Kelly Wahl, who has resigned.