San Ramon's fireworks are up in the air.
The cost for the city's Independence Day celebration -- held since 1985 -- could top $300,000 this year, so San Ramon City Council is seeking input from residents about whether to spend the money or to downsize the event, possibly to a concert in Central Park, much like the one held in Pleasanton.
A news release from the city notes that other localities have ended their fireworks, leaving San Ramon as one of the only places people can see them. A staff report says the 2011 event created gridlock between 8 and 11 p.m. in the area around Central Park and blocked emergency vehicles from getting through.
The event also overloaded restrooms and garbage cans in Central Park and restricted movement. A number of small fires were started by portable grills that are, theoretically at least, prohibited in the park, as is alcohol, although the staff report noted a rise in alcohol use at the event. There was also an increase in property damage throughout Bishop Ranch Business Park and the other surrounding commercial properties.
"This has shifted the event from a local community focused event to a regional event with large crowds coming into the City from the greater Bay Area," the release noted.
In 2011 the event cost about $175,000, but staff recommends increasing the budget to $318,000 to pay for equipment, personnel and contractors.
"Public safety and the protection of San Ramon neighborhoods is the city of San Ramon's number one priority," said San Ramon Police Chief Scott Holder. "The city's current resources are stretched thin and our goal is to provide a safe, secure event."
San Ramon Police, Public Services, Parks and Community Services have nearly all personnel on-duty during the morning run and evening fireworks event. The need to provide safety and security in the park, the launch site for the fireworks, parking lots and surrounding areas while simultaneously providing safe traffic control measures and pedestrian access has stretched current city resources to the limit, according to a staff analysis.
The city's Parks and Community Service Commission recommended that the fireworks be canceled and suggested a smaller, community-focused event this year, with the possibility of bringing pyrotechnics back in the future.
City Council will decide at its Feb. 14 meeting. Before then, officials want residents to weigh in with their opinions by attending the meeting, through email at email@example.com or online.
"It is very important that we hear directly from residents to determine the future of this event" said Mayor Bill Clarkson. "It will require a significant city investment during lean years to provide a safe, quality event. The council wants to make a decision that is truly reflective of our resident's priorities."