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County Likely to Reverse Fireworks Ban in Flagler Beach In Special Meeting Friday

| June 30, 2011

flagler beach fireworks back on

Looks like they'll be set off after all. (© FlaglerLive)

The Flagler County Commission doesn’t call special meetings very often. It did it just once in the past year, last August, to make a temporary appointment of one of its own to the county canvassing board. The emergency this time: Independence Day fireworks in Flagler Beach.

The commission late Thursday called a special meeting for Friday at 4 p.m. to reconsider its ban on Flagler Beach’s iconic fireworks show. It is almost certain that the commission will reverse itself and approve the fireworks show.

Commissioners Barbara Revels and George Hanns and Commission Chairman Alan Peterson all said, late Thursday afternoon, that they would be in favor of overturning the ban. Peterson said he’d rely on County Fire Chief Don Petito’s recommendation. Petito said late this afternoon that his position, stated Monday, hadn’t changed: he’s fine with the fireworks in Flagler Beach. He’s still opposed to fireworks elsewhere, including at Palm Coast’s Town Center and in the Hammock–and of course to mercenary fireworks in cul de sacs and in residential backyards.

Another question mark was Fireworks by Santore Inc., the Palm Coast-based company contracted by the Flagler County Chamber of Commerce to put on the $15,000 display in Flagler Beach (the cost is borne by the county’s Tourist Development Council). Earlier this week, Anthony Santore, the company’s president, said that following the commission’s cancellation of the show less than two weeks ago, the company had to change plans and assign crews to other shows, making a reversal difficult. That changed by Thursday.

“I was losing sleep at night, we were getting a lot of calls also from the public asking why can’t we have it,” Santore said. “Remember, our business is producing fireworks displays. We don’t survive off of postponing shows. So when the chamber called today and said there was a glimmer of hope we rallied all the troops.” He added: “This won’t be an interim style show, this will be as spectacular as the original show we planned. We were actually able to pull from a few of our other show sites and pull together a crew.” He said the company might even pull a couple of people out of retirement to ensure that the show goes off smoothly.

The county commission unanimously approved the fireworks cancellation on June 20, though Revels was very reluctant to do so. Two days later, skies began to darken above Flagler–not with smoke from the still-raging fires at the time, but from gathering storms that began dumping volumes of water on the county almost daily, to the point of creating localized flooding one day. The fire emergency quickly waned. By week’s end, public opposition to the ban, strong from the start, had swelled to a clamor.

Doug Baxter, president of the Flagler County Chamber of Commerce and Affiliates, contacted commissioners, spoke with Santore, and with Flagler Beach officials, the latter eager to restore the show. On Friday, he called Peterson, the commission chair, asking for a special meeting and reconsideration of the matter. Peterson agreed.

“It’s a team effort. Without the team you don’t get anything done,” Baxter said. “It’s a collaboration between the Flagler Beach Chamber of Commerce and the city of Flagler Beach, so everybody has been working very hard to try to put on” the fireworks.

Revels was audibly delighted. She said she’ll vote to overturn the ban. “I’m the one that wanted it lifted all along,” Revels said, noting that the decision could have been left up to county and Flagler Beach city staffs, based on the latest conditions. “It sounds great. And I’ve been having business calls from Flagler Beach all day,” meaning businesses looking for a way out of the ban. “It will be wonderful if that changes tomorrow. I don’t think we can stress enough that every business in this county is hanging on by their fingernails and any small possibility that they can have to have a profitable week or day is very, very important to everyone.”

Hanns, on vacation in Tampa, said he was cutting his vacation short to make it back for the meeting Friday. He, too, was clear: “I will be in favor of it for having fireworks only at the pier, in Flagler Beach,” assuming conditions don’t change in the interim.

“When Craig Coffey called me, I said that I’d be willing to call the meeting but that I wanted Chief Petito to state whether he felt conditions had returned to normal,” Peterson said. Coffey is the county administrator. Conditions are “certainly better than when we talked on Monday.”

Commissioner Nate McLaughlin could not be reached.

Commissioner Milissa Holland spoke most strongly in favor of the ban, including in Flagler Beach, and hasn’t wavered from that position. Holland had actually been chiefly instrumental in developing the concept of the July4 fireworks as a weekend event, paired with the Town Center fireworks on two successive days, through the Tourist Development Council, which she chairs. Once the concept was developed and the money approved for the two shows, she and Peggy Heiser, who’s in charge of the chamber’s–and the TDC’s–tourism strategies, developed an ad campaign to market the weekend particularly to race fans in for the Independence Day races at the Speedway in Daytona Beach. That campaign was altered after the June 20 decision to reflect the cancellations. Holland was largely bypassed by the efforts to restore the fireworks show in Flagler Beach.

“Not pleased,” Holland said Thursday afternoon. “I’ve weighed all of these discussions and in good conscience cannot reverse my decision on this issue. I believe that if it is overturned tomorrow it will send the wrong message to our public, that the government does not play by the same rules as we expect them to. I say that because if the conditions were safe then the burn ban would be lifted throughout the county. The point being that there are certain areas of our county that are still really dry.” Holland cited changing weather conditions and still-dry areas that could reverse gains achieved in the last several days.

“My real fear is that our residents will take this as a sign that they can go out and buy their own fireworks and light them off in their neighborhoods,” Holland said. “We’ve exhausted our reserve and we’ve also exhausted the brave men and women that have protected us. I’ve gone to every fireworks show since I was 16 years old in Flagler Beach. I understand how special and unique it is but we have a responsibility to the public first and foremost, not only to protect them but to ensure that we’re not incurring extra added expenses in these tough economic times.”

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20 Responses for “County Likely to Reverse Fireworks Ban in Flagler Beach In Special Meeting Friday”

  1. Dee says:

    I love Palm Coast beach!

  2. SSDD says:

    Ok, So does Commissioner Holland and others really think that the burn ban will keep people from doing fireworks in neighborhoods? Why does it matter if a show is done at the beach, either way I would bet local fire departments and deputies will be busy running fireworks related calls. She’s just upset that Town Center won’t be making the money that everyone visiting Flagler Beach will be spending. Don’t worry Ms. Holland, you’ll make yours in September…

  3. lawabidingcitizen says:

    Holland is ridiculous.

  4. Binkey says:

    Already made different plans…sorry county taking my $$$ elsewhere.

  5. lambert owner says:

    They should have listened to Revels to begin with and waited before making the call so early

  6. PCPerson says:

    Why would you not change your plans back to Flagler?

  7. Abel Wintson says:

    Listen here SSDD, Milissa Holland does not make a profit from the Town Center fireworks, so I’ll stop you there. She works her butt off day in and day out for this county you live in. Do you know how many fires are in this county and Florida? Get you’re facts together before you get behind your little computer screen. If you want to speak your mind about her, try being a part of your community & go to one of the 2 county comminsion meetings each month and vent your little problems there. Fire fighters are out there risking their lives to protect your home. The land is dry enough that one little firework can spark a whole new fire. Yes, I guarentee people will attempt their own fireworks, and there are law enforcements out patroling areas on the fourth who will be trying to prevent that. So why not drive down to Daytona with your money and enjoy the festivites there? Have a great night. Enjoy your fourth of July.

  8. basketballmom says:

    Thank You Doug Baxter for calling all the troops for a meeting. Finally!! Holland is ridiculous. Hope they come to their senses and bring the fireworks back to Flagler. We need our money to stay in Flagler.

  9. Dee says:

    At least Palm Coast has a bowling alley.

  10. JesusChris97 says:

    basketballmom, you’re clearly blind of the fires.

  11. Flaglerguy says:

    Flagler beach is a separate town and it should not be dictated to by palm coast. It’s about time our local leaders took a stand and stopped being bullied by the county.
    I applaud Ms Revels, and hope our citizens speak their mind about Ms Holland during the next election.

  12. Binkey says:

    Others are involved so I’m going away.

  13. Carol Fisher says:

    I’m always amazed that people won’t post their names when the offer up opinions on this site. You have something worth saying, but you’re ashamed to say it out loud? What’s up with that? If your opinion is worth voicing, why are you ashamed to put your name on it?

  14. Sam summers says:

    I very much agree with Abel Winston.

  15. JesusChris97 says:

    Yes, Abel is correct.
    I want to know what you all are thinking talking down about your County Commissioner.
    All she is doing is taking precautions on the damage that the fireworks could cause to your community.
    She is trying to protect you people even when you disparage her, you all should be ashamed.
    How old are you guys? 12? 13? Because that’s how old you are acting. How do you think she feels about this hate mail from people she probably knows because she’s just that devoted to Flagler County.
    You are all so caught up in the ‘pretty lights in the sky’, that you are not aware of how many homes have been and now could be evacuated. Milissa even said she enjoys the fireworks, I know she does because I have seen her watch them. Yes it’s independence day, freedom. But I doubt they ever wanted you all to use your freedom in such a selfish manner. I mean I could go on and on about how wrong Doug Baxter is and how much of a jackass he is for calling in these people from their own lives to lift a ban they made themselves. But I won’t, anymore that is. I’ll leave you all with a Happy Fouth of July.

  16. Ralph Belcher says:

    I can see the different sides of it. Business wanting the attraction of a crowd for the fireworks display and the plethora of other activities planned for independence day at the beachfront areas…. And the complicity comes from the message to those who will not exercise good judgement and ignore the emergency burn ban and go ahead and light off private fireworks. Indeed, there will be some areas that have enough moisture to hold us off from the slightest spark. ALSO there are other areas of the county that are still considered tinderboxes. The difference between wetter and drier areas are *very spotty* if you had or could chart them across our geography in Flagler. They seem to vary so much it’s tough to make an overall characterization – oh, it’s OK for fireworks and well, let’s err on the side of caution.

    And with the element of human emotion working into this, the necessity for businesses to succeed… it’s a tough call. Commissioner Holland has taken a role of leadership – to make the tough call, which seems to be from what I read here, to err on the side of caution.

    We’ve had enough wildfire flames licking at resident’s siding, barely a foot or so from homes. A tough pill for anyone to swallow, but there it is.

    Human nature being what it is, I think we all quickly forget how close we were to getting some of these recent fires out of control. Quite quickly.

    Let’s all enjoy, and for the sake of everyone, be careful out there. It’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt.

    May God richly bless our nation!

    Ralph and Claudia Belcher family.

  17. basketballmom says:

    Wow JesusChris 97!! I’m not blind, I have seen the fires. Have you seen the rain lately??? Also, do you know that the fireworks are out over the water. If they are still worried, why not get a barge a mile out and blast the fireworks off of it. Have you not read the news Daytona?? Ormond and Port Orange are still going on with their fireworks, even though they have had fires also. Thanks again to DOUG BAXTER for calling this special meeting and trying to keep our money here in flagler county. I so happy to live in the USA where we ALL have freedom of speech.

  18. mara says:

    Yep! Unfortunately, freedom of speech means we need also to put up with sanctimonious lectures from those who think they can tell from *a blog post* who attends the county commission meetings and who doesn’t. And three “people” agree? Uh-huh…

  19. John Smith says:

    What are you whining about now mara you got your fireworks. unless someone agrees with your way of thinking they are wrong and you like to throw up the freedom of speech thing. thats what it is all about being able to say what you want and being critisized for it and not being killed for it. come to the big city and sit in traffic and watch the fireworks.

  20. Dee says:

    So excited Palm Coast will be having fireworks at the beach, can NOT wait!!!

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