Fireworks fizzle without funding

Published 5:16 pm Tuesday, May 26, 2020

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JACKSON – The Northampton Commissioners did not approve a budget amendment here at their regular meeting on May 18 that would have contributed funds to the Northampton Chamber of Commerce’s annual July 4 celebration event. Several commissioners said they weren’t comfortable yet with the idea of holding a large gathering of people while the COVID-19 pandemic continues.

Finance Director Tameka Green, who previously held the interim director position, presented the budget amendments to the Board during the meeting which was held electronically with most of the commissioners attending via telephone.

Budget amendment #45 was listed as a $1,950 contribution to the Chamber of Commerce for the fireworks at the annual event which usually draws a couple thousand people to the Cultural and Wellness Center in Jackson. This is an annual contribution from the county government dating back to 2013, according to Green.

The request for funding letter, which was made available to the commissioners, was dated March 4, which was before precautions were put into place to stem the spread of COVID-19. The letter also noted that the rest of the funds for the fireworks would come from contributions from other municipalities and the Tourism Development Authority.

Commissioner Geneva Faulkner expressed concern with the idea of holding such a large gathering while there are still many uncertainties about the public threat of the virus.

County Manager Charles Jackson said he had already advised the Chamber of Commerce Director that a final decision regarding the event would be made closer to the deadline and would be pending any release of statewide restrictions from Governor Roy Cooper.

“I am not comfortable with it,” stated Commissioner Nicole Boone.

Commissioners Joyce Buffaloe and Kelvin Edwards both said they agreed with the sentiments expressed by the others.

Edwards noted that, at the time of discussion, the governor had not even moved the state to “Phase Two” of its reopening plan.

Faulkner suggested the annual celebration could potentially be held at a later date, such as Labor Day, if conditions were better by then.

Board Chair Charles Tyner asked if the commissioners wanted to table the budget amendment in question for another day.

But with discussion concluded, Faulkner motioned to approve the other budget amendments—which pertained to insurance proceeds from sheriff’s office vehicles—and to not approve the amendment for the fireworks contribution. Buffaloe seconded the motion.

The vote was unanimously in favor.