Grosse Pointe Woods to cancel fireworks plans

By: April Lehmbeck | Grosse Pointe Times | Published March 10, 2015


GROSSE POINTE WOODS — After heading back to the drawing board one more time, city officials continued to struggle to find a viable solution to the problems with hosting a fireworks show this summer.

So, once again, the Committee of the Whole, which is made up of members of the City Council, voted March 9 to send a recommendation to the City Council table to nix the fireworks for 2015.

If they vote as they are indicating, that doesn’t mean that the fireworks won’t be back in some form for 2016. The city is investigating options like partnering with the Ford Estate, which officials were told wasn’t possible this year but could be possible next summer.

“I think we’re too close for anything,” Councilman Art Bryant said of the time crunch for getting something ready this year. “I think we’re going to have to skip this year.”

Others agreed.

“I think whatever we’re doing, we’re going to have to look at 2016,” Councilman Todd McConaghy said.

“I’m resigned to the fact that it doesn’t look like we’re going to have the fireworks here this year,” Councilman Kevin Ketels said.

All but one council member voted in favor of sending the recommendation for an official vote at an upcoming City Council meeting.

Councilman Michael Koester voted in opposition to the recommendation. During the meeting, he said that he would prefer at least having a small show — even a show using consumer-grade fireworks instead of a commercial show.

“I think that something is better than nothing,” he said.

Others, however, said that there were uncertainties with that, including how many would actually be able to see the fireworks.

Councilwoman Vicki Granger said that it could make sponsorships challenging with so many unknowns.

The City Council and administration talked about multiple fireworks possibilities for this year during the Committee of the Whole meeting, but issues were raised with all of them.

Some options would lead to the need to bring in the Coast Guard due to firing off fireworks over the water. Others would cause a need to bring in St. Clair Shores police officers, which would create a major expense for the city.

Council members raised different scenarios in the hopes of finding a possible solution.

“Administration put in an awful lot of time,” Mayor Robert Novitke said. “It just doesn’t seem feasible.”

The city has hosted fireworks over Parcells Middle School for years, but last summer’s issues with unruly crowds led the city to look at other options.

They initially decided to move forward with plans to host them at Lake Front Park, but that created a number of issues. They were looking at costs for bringing in St. Clair Shores officers at double-time wages, shutting down residential canals and small marinas, and more.

While the city is not looking to host the fireworks this summer, there are some plans in the works to bring additional fun for families by adding to one of the city’s beloved events — the city picnic.

The council talked about wanting to add something special for residents, and they discussed if they should do it on a separate day or make the city picnic a bigger event.

“On the day of the city picnic, to me, it’s a natural extension of the day,” Granger said. 

Novitke said they will be looking at other possibilities for programs this year, as well, to continue to cultivate “just a sense of community, which is so important.”

After it seemed the council was resigned to not having them this year, they continued to talk, since they are looking toward next year. They set aside a meeting in October to discuss next year’s possible plans.

In the interim, the city administration is meeting with representatives of the Ford Estate and gathering information.

Besides talk of partnering with the Ford Estate, the possibility of shooting them off over Parcells again — but taking action like closing the field off to crowds — was mentioned.

That didn’t seem to receive any support at the table.

“What we would be doing is forcing that crowd out onto Mack,” McConaghy said. “I really think pushing the crowds into the Mack corridor and the Vernier corridor would be also impossible to police.”

Novitke said there were other issues with the show at Parcells over the years.

“Each and every year, the costs were going up,” he said.