Last April Flagler’s publicly funded Tourist Development Council approved spending $30,000 on a pair of Independence Day weekend fireworks show–$15,000 for Flagler Beach’s traditional blast off the end of the city’s pier on the 4th, and $15,000 for Palm Coast’s toddler tradition in Town Center, where the atmosphere of a tailgate party is recreated (without the tailgating) ahead of the display.
The wildfires interfered. Both shows were canceled before the county commission, bowing to a public outcry and many days of rain, restored the Flagler Beach show–but not Palm Coast’s. The promise in the air was that Palm Coast would take a rain check and put on a show perhaps on Labor Day.
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- TDC Approves $30,000 for Dual July 4th Fireworks Under Unifying Americana Theme
So it will, but not just one show. Palm Coast asked the county to have the authority to take the $15,000 allocation and split it into three parts to put on three separate fireworks shows: On Sept. 4, capping Labor Day weekend celebrations in Town Center; and on Nov. 5 and 6, the weekend of the Palm Coast Seafood Festival, which also features one of the many Jimmy Buffett tribute bands.
The county commission approved the reallocation of the money in a unanimous vote today (Aug. 1). The only confusion was over Jimmy Buffett. The administration’s background material for the commissioners mistakenly cited “a Jimmy Buffett concert” as part of the activities the weekend of Nov. 5 and 6, eliciting a question from Commissioner Barbara Revels: “Is Jimmy Buffett really coming?”
No, he’s not. There are many Jimmy Buffett tribute bands, and one of them will be coming. Buffett himself doesn’t play small venues. (He’s playing Paris in late September and two dates at the MGM Grand in Vegas in October.)
Commission Chairman Alan Peterson raised another question, asking Commissioner Milissa Holland whether the re-allocation had been approved by the Tourist Development Council, which Holland chairs. It had not. Holland called the measure a matter of “housekeeping,” since the money had already been approved by the TDC for spending by Palm Coast.
That’s true. But it was nevertheless an unusual bending of the TDC’s strict rules, which Holland herself pressed for, and which set out criteria for what qualifies as an event that may draw on the public subsidy. TDC money, drawn from the county’s 4 percent bed tax on hotels, motels, RV rentals and other short-term rentals, is spent on events that promote draws of out-of-county tourists who then presumably spend money and fill overnight beds in Flagler.
When the TDC approved the allocation to Palm Coast in April, it cited the July 4 weekend’s big draw: the weekend itself, with events in Flagler Beach, but also two days of races in Daytona Beach. For legal backing on the expenditure of the money on fireworks, the commission relied on a memo from County Attorney Al Hadeed, who wrote that “such expenditure is permissible subject to a legislative finding made by the county commission that support of the fireworks program is primarily related to the advancement and promotion of tourism in Flagler County. There was little question that July 4 would be a tourist draw, and when the commission ratified the TDC’s allocation, commissioners agreed that the expense was warranted based on that assumption.
Yet commissioners today didn’t raise the question of whether Palm Coast’s three fall dates would add up to the same tourist draw as the July 4 weekend. Last year’s Seafood Festival was mostly a local affair. It did not have a Labor Day fireworks display for comparison’s sake. Nor were documents submitted to the commission showing so much as estimates of the tourists Palm Coast thinks it will draw on these three dates. (Last year, the Flagler County Rotary Club raised the money for Palm Coast July 4 fireworks. Palm Coast itself declined to pay for either year’s show.)
The only document from the city to the county was a short letter, dated July 28, from Palm Coast City Manager Jim Landon to Deputy County Administrator Sally Sherman. “It is my understanding you requested a letter advising that the city was still interested in using these funds for community events,” Landon wrote, “and how the funds would be used.” Nowhere in the letter does Landon make a request for using the money for the three shows instead of the one that the commission had vaguely alluded to back in June (on Labor Day). The letter merely presumes that the city may do with the money what it will.
Holland said today the matter had to be formally ratified by the commission to enable the Tourist Development Council to craft a marketing campaign promoting Palm Coast’s events.