By Theresa Stratford for The Island Connection
“Proceed with caution” is the theme for the upcoming Fourth of July firework display, tentatively scheduled for July 3 at the Seabrook Island Beach Club.
At the recent Seabrook Island Town Council meeting held on April 27, Mayor John Gregg reiterated what the Ways and Means Committee discussed on April 13. The Public Safety Committee also addressed the event at their meeting on April 12.
Since the firework vendor had to be given notice about proceeding with the event by April 15 due to needing to order the supply, Ways and Means made the decision to move forward with the event.
However, Public Safety’s recommendations were to have the event without food and beverages, music or shuttles.
Councilmember Skip Crane said that basically the event would only be a firework display.
At the Ways and Means Committee meeting, Gregg brought up that the Beach Club did have concerns with possibly holding the event there at such a bare bones capacity.
Councilwoman Jeri Finke and Gregg had met with Beach Club staff and the Seabrook Island Property Owner Association early on April 13.
She said the Club is willing to host the event with protocols put in place, but that they would like to sell food and beverages in some capacity in order to incur a profit.
“It could be that they offer boxed meals to people,” she said.
She also suggested that there could be more food stations and that people would social distance in line.
As each Town Council member discussed their opinion on whether to confirm with the vendor, questions inevitably arose.
One question was on whether the event could be held on Labor Day if needed. Finke said that the Beach Club was not able to confirm if they could hold the event on Labor Day weekend or not. “They may already have something scheduled that weekend like a golf tournament.”
If they did hold the event on Labor Day, would the vendor be able to store the fireworks all summer long? Would Town Council be able to offer to pay for storage, rather than lose their deposit completely?
If the “bare bones” firework event was to proceed, would the Beach Club pull out of hosting it? And if so, where would it be held then?
Council Member Barry Goldstein asked Town Administrator Joe Cronin what other municipalities were doing with their events. Cronin answered that most municipalities are holding smaller-scale events, but the only town he knew of that has cancelled their July 4 celebration completely right now is the Isle of Palms.
Finke shared statistics from the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control. She said that last year at this time when they cancelled the July 4 celebration, the average cases per day was 14.
As of April 10, 2021, the average cases per day was 185.
“We are still in this. COVID isn’t over and we really can’t predict if there will be another surge in June or around that time,” she explained.
Protocols that Council will have to come up with for the event, should it indeed proceed, will be on social distancing, mask wearing, hand washing stations and the time for people to arrive will need to be considered as well.
Finke noted that it wouldn’t be in the Town’s best interest to encourage people to come an hour in advance and that they would likely have to consider asking people to show up at different times.
Council members understood and accepted the fact that money could be lost should they decide to cancel now after they asked the vendor to order the fireworks as planned.
Cronin reported that the firework vendor kept their deposit from last year of $8,250 under the condition that they would hold it in 2021. Confirming that the event will be held on July 3 cost the Town another $8,250 for a total of $16,500.
Council Member Patricia Fox pointed out, “This event is not mandatory and it will not have nearly the amount of people that have come in the past.”
Goldstein brought up his concerns of how the Beach Club or the Town will be able to enforce protocols.
“I understand the Beach Club will want to sell food to make a profit. I can’t blame them for that. I do see this as a public health issue and I think we need to take our responsibility to keep people in the town safe very seriously.”
In the Town Council meeting, Gregg reminded everyone of their upcoming emergency ordinance 2021-02 that will be expiring on May 23. This ordinance discusses regulations within the town as it pertains to the pandemic. He said that those regulations will be in effect on July 4.
More protocol discussions for the event will be discussed at the next Seabrook Island Ways and Means Committee meeting on May 11.
A public comment was shared at the beginning of the Town Council meeting from a resident who opposes the Town’s decision to hold a firework event.
The public comment read, “Going through with this event will give the false impression that this virus is over. It will signal to return to normal. The wearing of masks and social distancing will be over. Wait until the fall when there is a better picture of where we are with the virus. The deposit should be returned in case those funds are needed in the future. If Council goes ahead with the event, the amount of people who gather should be limited. Protocols like hand washing, social distancing and mask wearing should be put in place like the art show that happened recently.”