Monday, April 15, 2024
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Council Wants Safeguards On Former Mayor Fireworks Spending

Several Cookeville City Council members want better accountability of the money provided for the Fourth Of July Fireworks.

Better Cookeville, started by former Mayor Ricky Shelton, produces the fireworks show. City Manager James Mills said Better Cookeville has asked to increase funding to $20,000 in the new fiscal year.

Council Member Eric Walker said the city requires financials of the non-profits who apply for city funds and it should do the same with Better Cookeville.

“That’s the mechanism we use on a non-profit to assure that we’re not putting up money for something that we don’t approve of is to look at their financials,” Walker said. “So if they have too much money or are spending money in a way that we don’t approve, where the committee doesn’t approve, we have an opportunity to see that in writing.”

A citizen committee considers the applications of non-profits that apply for city funding. Walker said the city should have safeguards.

“We consider this as really a sponsorship of the fireworks, because that money is restricted directly for the fireworks program,” Finance Director Brenda Imel said. “That’s why it’s in the quality of life. It’s not really part of the non-profits where the committee looks at it.”

Mayor Laurin Wheaton said the council would make a decision on the increased funding later in the budget process. Walker said it should depend on whether the city gets the Better Cookeville financials. Mills said he would ask.

Mills said the city could simply ask that the city’s contribution be paid directly to the fireworks vendor, but the two council members seemed to want more.

“What I’m saying is I think we can require, if you want to do this, and again, this is all to be decided when we consider the budget for adoption, you can stipulate it that it goes directly to the fireworks vendor,” Mills said.

The city’s fireworks expenditure started at $5,000 over the first two years of the show. For the last eight years, the contribution has been $8,000. Putnam County government also contributes to the fireworks show. The majority of the money comes from local businesses.

The discussion came Wednesday during the second day of budget work sessions, as Imel began discussions on the city’s Quality of Life fund. Wheaton asked about how much the city spends on traffic, police and other services for the fourth. Mills said it was less than $10,000 total.

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