Questions About Fireworks

Legislature discusses funding to support private show 

A routine request that Putnam County help fund Fourth of July fireworks in Southeast sparked discussion last week over similar aid to other municipalities, such as Cold Spring. 

During the May 19 meeting in Carmel of the Legislature’s Protective Services Committee, Legislator Joe Castellano of Brewster shared a request for financial assistance from the Southeast Fireworks Committee and the Brewster Chamber of Commerce, which are organizing a July 3 fireworks display.

Legislator Neal Sullivan of Carmel-Mahopac, a committee member, said that the request was included on the agenda for informational purposes, not to prompt any immediate action.

In a letter addressed to the Legislature, the fireworks committee and Brewster chamber noted that deputies from the Putnam County Sheriff’s Department, along with New York State Police troopers and Metropolitan Transportation Authority officers, have been assigned to previous fireworks shows in Southeast. 

The event, which takes place at the Highlands Shopping Center near I-84 and typically draws 3,000 to 5,000 people, is outside the jurisdiction of the Brewster police department, Castellano said. 

The county would bear the costs of deputies assigned to the event, including overtime. “The town [of Southeast] has made clear it’s not their event,” Castellano said. Private businesses sponsor it and “we’re just trying to help them put it on.” 

Legislator Nancy Montgomery, who represents Philipstown and part of Putnam Valley, asked whether the county has ever provided financial support elsewhere for fireworks. 

“Not to my knowledge,” replied Legislator Ginny Nacerino of Patterson, who heads the Protective Services Committee. “We’ve never had any requests.”

She said celebrations in other parts of Putnam draw smaller crowds “and it’s incumbent upon us to protect the people who attend this event” in Southeast. 

Legislator Carl Albano said that if a comparable Fourth of July event needed help, “I would look at it the same way. It hasn’t come to us.”

Montgomery pointed out that the Cold Spring fireworks are also sponsored by private businesses. But Nacerino observed that “you have a police department.”

“If there was an event” in Cold Spring or elsewhere, said Nacerino, “I’m sure that” Sheriff Kevin McConville “would be on the scene if he deemed it necessary.”

Montgomery said Wednesday (May 25) that, as she understands the process, because the Southeast fireworks require more deputies than Cold Spring, the Legislature funds that cost through a special budget line, while the overtime pay for deputies assigned to the Cold Spring fireworks is paid from the department’s regular overtime expenditures.

Questions about county outlays for fireworks arose in 2014, as well. Legislators at a Protective Service Committee meeting endorsed financial support for the Southeast fireworks, expected to cost about $17,500 in deputy overtime. But six months later, they expressed surprise when confronted with a $53,002 bill from Sheriff Donald Smith that he said was for overtime at events that included the fireworks and the Cold Spring wedding of Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney. 

In 2018, a few months after ousting Smith, Sheriff Robert Langley Jr. told the same committee that while overtime at the 2017 Southeast fireworks had been about $14,000, it probably could be reduced to $10,000 for 2018. It came in at $9,143. Legislators praised Langley’s fiscal innovations but soon turned against him over other policy and budget matters, and he lost to McConville in November 2021.

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