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Fireworks spark debate

Fireworks explode over the Mississippi River at Red Wing. File photo

During Monday's City Council meeting, Don Kliewer's request for a $10,000 matching grant to help pay for this year's firework show triggered a short debate on whether the city should fund fireworks at all.

Kliewer runs the volunteer Mississippi Alumination committee, which raises funds to pay for Fourth of July fireworks in Red Wing. For the last few years, Kliewer has asked for a $10,000 matching grant from the city. He raises another $10,000 through private donations and additional funds by selling aluminum cans.

This year, Kliewer will sell the cans to the city, which will then sell the cans on the open market. Normally, the city does not pay for aluminum. Public Works Director Rick Moskwa estimated that the city might wind up paying about $8,000 for the cans.

Council member Peggy Rehder expressed concern that between the grant and the cans, the city was paying too much for the firework show.

Peggy Rehder"I would like to see what the city actually pays for this item," she said.

Kliewer pushed back. "The cans have nothing to do with the matching grant. The only reason the city is taking them is because they offered to," he said.

While expected revenue from the cans, the grant and additional fundraising will total about $28,000, Kliewer said the fireworks normally cost about $16,000. The extra money would either make for a better show or be used next year, he said.

"I don't think there's a need to make the show bigger than it is," Rehder said. "I think it's time to look at raising private funds. It's not like everyone in the community wants fireworks. The show is popular, but not universal. I think we should get a better feel on how the whole community feels."

Rehder pointed to veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, among other resident complaints, as reasons to re-evaluate the city's role in funding the annual show.

Council member John Becker was a bit more supportive. While he would like to see more of the project's financial details in the future, he ultimately supported the matching grant.

"I'm more comfortable with this knowing it was budgeted and planned for in advance, but there should be a point in time when the city stops contributing," Becker said. "Still, I think there is a public benefit. It doesn't cost anything to attend, and it's a family-oriented event."

Council approved the $10,000 matching grant 5-1, with Rehder voting against the resolution.