Reynoldsburg News

Reynoldsburg's fireworks moved to July 3; mayor cites safety

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Reynoldsburg's fireworks display will be moved up one day this year, to July 3 instead of July 4, in response to "safety concerns."

Mayor Brad McCloud said after a Reynoldsburg City Council safety committee meeting Feb. 19 that an incident last July 4 prompted the date change.

"We had safety concerns after last year's incident, so we decided to make the date change," he said. "We had a large turnout last year and the people causing the disturbance were from out of town."

McCloud said since the Columbus fireworks display -- Red, White and Boom! -- is typically held July 3, the city of Reynoldsburg might not get so many people attending from elsewhere if it were to share that date.

He said Whitehall changed the date of its fireworks to July 3 last year and reported a quieter crowd from the previous year.

Mary Hudson, of the Reynoldsburg Visitors and Community Activities Bureau, which usually wants to encourage out-of-town visitors, said the date change is fine with her.

"The date change was discussed last September and October, when we talked about concerns in the park," she said. "The fireworks are all about the Reynoldsburg community. We know some families want to stay in town anyway on July 3, so we wanted to give the date change a chance.

"It was decided by the mayor's office, but all of us are backing up the decision," she said.

Hudson said concessions, information booths and games and activities for children still would precede the fireworks July 3 at Civic Park.

The July 4 parade and the Mount Carmel Fitness Challenge will be held July 4.

Hudson said Reynoldsburg Police Chief Jim O'Neill suggested moving the Mount Carmel Fitness Challenge to 9 a.m. July 4 and starting the city's Independence Day parade at 10 a.m. July 4.

"The Mount Carmel Fitness Challenge was previously held during the Tomato Festival," she said. "The Fitness Challenge route will end up on the July 4 parade route."

She said the visitors bureau soon would release a 2013 community activities calendar with current dates for all major city events.

"We have a lot of new things going on that we want residents to know about," she said.

McCloud recommended to the safety committee that the city enter into a contract again with the Pyrotecnico Fireworks Co. at a cost of $26,250 for handling the fireworks display.

Councilman Chris Long said it was the same price the city has been quoted for the past three years.

Long said the company has a good reputation for safety, noting he and his wife were at a fireworks display in Huber Park in 1996, when spectator Daniel Ryll was killed by shrapnel from an exploding 12-inch shell.

"Since that night, safety has always been our primary concern in the city," he said.

The Ohio Supreme Court ruled on June 19, 2002, that Truro Township and the city of Reynoldsburg were not entitled to government immunity in the case. The city agreed to settle with the Ryll family for $750,000 and Truro Township for $600,000, if the courts decided against immunity, according to information published in a law newsletter from the Katzman, Logan Halper and Bennett law firm in Cincinnati and from the Ohio Supreme Court.

The Columbus Fireworks Display Co. was handling the display the year Ryll was killed.

Long said the city has had good results with Pyrotecnico.

The contract with Pyrotecnico includes liability insurance coverage in the amount of $10 million.

O'Neill said the Reynoldsburg Police Department maintains "a fairly detailed action plan to make sure we have appropriate access during the fireworks display."

"I think the overall consensus is, we are at the point we feel well-equipped and staffed to deal with any problems," he said.

Councilwoman Leslie Kelly said she was at last year's fireworks display when the disturbance occurred between young people.

"Obviously, it was cleared up very quickly, but is there any way to be more proactive and have more police presence?" she asked.

O'Neill said the department was "severely short-staffed" last year because of retirements and some deployments.

"We should be close to full staffing once July rolls around," he said. "We could have six to eight more police officers there than last year."

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