BRIDGEWATER, NJ - The Somerset County Board of Chosen Freeholders has decided it will finance the county's annual Independence Day fireworks at North Branch Park, on Milltown Road, because the county park commission could not finance it in its 2015 budget.
Unfortunately, that financing will not extend to the annual Family Festival itself.
According to a release from the county, freeholder director Mark Caliguire said the expenditure is one-time only, and the park commission is encouraged to find corporate sponsorships and other funding for future years.
"For this year only, the freeholders will step in and fund the fireworks that thousands of county residents enjoy," he said in the release. "This is an event celebrating our nation and our freedoms, so the freeholder board is going to find a way to subsidize it this year."
Every year, the release said, the freeholder board makes an appropriation in its budget to the park commission, but that doesn't include items like the fireworks, which are funded by the commission.
According to the release, changes in golf participation nationwide caused a drop in the commission's golf revenues, leaving its operating budget short. This had an effect on the fireworks for this year.
"Over the last two years, the county has increased the parks budget appropriation 17 percent to make up for any shortfalls," Caliguire said in the release. "And the freeholder board will support the park commission in its efforts to transition to an operating budget with lower golf revenues. But that process must take place."
A contract will be issued to Schaefer Pyrotechnics Inc., of Pennsylvania, for $19,000 for the fireworks. The contract does not include any other entertainment, namely the annual Family Festival that accompanies the fireworks at North Branch Park.
According to Ray Brown, director of the park commission, in a release, the Family Festival was not included the commission's proposed operating budget.
"We respect the importance of the July 4th festival, yet we also have a responsibility to provide a diverse menu of other programming for the millions of park patrons who visit our 15,000 acres of active and passive parkland throughout the remainder of the year," he said in the release.
The park commission, the release said, is working out the details of the event, and is planning to open North Branch Park at 6 p.m., with the fireworks display at 9:30 p.m.
"We are continuing to work out the details with the fireworks provider, and will inform the public as soon as all arrangements are completed," he said in the release.
There are expected to be traffic issues at North Branch Park for the fireworks on Milltown Road, Route 202 and Route 22. Park commission rangers and staff will be able to direct visitors to on-site parking areas.