Friday, April 23, 2010

Recession Forces Cancellation of July 4 Event

The annual Fourth of July celebration, traditionally one of the town's largest celebrations of the year, has been cancelled for this year, a victim of the continuing recession.Town Manager Steve Biggs, with "great reluctance," told the Town Council this week that budget realities are forcing the town to "take a year off."

"We are financially stressed," he told the Council. "We are still better off than most, but this is clearly a discretionary item. We think it is an important event, but it is not part of our core responsibilities." He said the celebration should be back on for 2011 if the economy improves as expected and town revenues return to a more usual level.

"If it's either do this or keep an employee, I know which way I'm going to vote," said Councilman Bob Satterfield. A disappointed Mayor Jody McLeod took a philosophical approach. "While I'll be the first to say I don't like it, I'll also say I understand it," he told the Council.

Biggs said revenues are down more this year than expected, giving the town budget headaches that it has not previously experienced. In a time of ever expanding costs, the town has scaled back its spending in each of the last two years, and is heading that direction again this year.

Mayor Pro Tem Michael Grannis said he believes that disappointed residents will understand that required programs "are our first and foremost responsibility." Councilman Art Holder seemed to sum it up best: "I don't think we have a lot of choice."

Clayton has traditionally held the largest July 4 celebration in the area, attracting thousands of area residents with live music, games and events for youngsters, contests, traditional summer foods and the area's biggest fireworks display.

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