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Manteo’s New Year’s Eve fireworks funding up in the air 

Manteo restaurateur Todd Clissold is convinced a New Year’s Eve celebration with fireworks can become a major off-season event for the town.  

The town helped fund a downtown celebration last year but icy-cold weather and strong winds forced a day’s delay for the fireworks display and drew only a small group of shivering revelers to watch the entertainment. In spite of the last year’s weather challenge, Clissold asked Manteo to help fund the event again this New Year’s Eve. 

At least one town resident, Pete Jason, doesn’t share the Clissold’s optimism. Jason, who lives downtown, questioned the cost benefit of such a winter event. He also questioned the lack of infrastructure in the town, saying this is a drinking event and without adequate security and public transportation it would leave the town vulnerable to possible liability concerns. 

Since the Town of Manteo has not been able to secure fire department permission to launch fireworks from land at the state-owned Roanoke Island Festival Park, the cost of shooting off the fireworks from a barge has pushed the cost to $35,000.  

To pay for the fireworks the town is being asked to match a Dare County Tourist Bureau grant of $17,500 and additionally cover the cost of overtime for public works and police departments. Vendor fees and private business funding would be needed to pay for the estimated $14,000 expense for entertainment and marketing. Last year the town was forced to make up the difference when private funding fell short. 

Manteo Commissioner Hannon Fry said, “conceptually [the celebration] is a good idea but needs more discussion.” He wanted to know how citizens felt about it, and not just as a means to help businesses. Other board members wondered if there was a way to trim the cost of the event. Commissioner Richie Burke agreed with Fry and thought more time was needed before a decision. 

Clissold told town officials although a decision didn’t need to be made at the Board of Commissioners mid-month meeting, it would need to be made soon. He explained that fireworks companies and entertainers book up far in advance.  

Commissioners are expected to discuss the funding during a budget retreat this week. It remains far from certain if the town of Manteo will ring in 2019 with a booming celebration or the sound of silence. 

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