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Martinsburg to take over fireworks display

February 14, 2013|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD | matthewu@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — The Martinsburg City Council voted unanimously Thursday night to host the community’s annual Fourth of July fireworks show and obtain the required permits.

City Council’s 6-0 decision comes after the Martinsburg-Berkeley County Parks & Recreation Board decided in December that it would not apply for the required permits for the pyrotechnics display and would no longer hold Independence Day festivities at War Memorial Park in the hours leading up to the event. Ward 4 Councilman Roger Lewis was absent for Thursday’s meeting.

Before the vote, Mayor George Karos said he was “extremely disappointed” that the Parks & Recreation Board did not agree to hold the show again this year, but added that he understood its position on the issue.

Karos also announced that he plans to organize a committee of community leaders to look at how future fireworks shows may be financed as well as possibly changing the event’s location.

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In conjunction with the committee’s formation, Karos suggested city council might want to consider the alternative of not holding a 2013 show given the timing of the Parks & Recreation Board’s decision and use the $10,000 the city had budgeted for this year’s event as seed money for 2014, instead.

No council members voiced any support for Karos’ suggestion.

Ward 5 Councilman Jason Baker told Karos he was assured by Parks & Recreation officials that they would assist the city with hosting the fireworks this year with little change other than who would have to file for required permits and other paperwork. Park officials have indicated War Memorial Park will close at dusk on July 4 this year like any other day of the year and no special events will be held.

“I think it would be a shame to lose the fireworks in 2013,” said Baker, who lauded the mayor for planning to form a committee. 

Park & Recreation Board members told city officials in December that the event had become less family oriented and that the visibility of the pyrotechnics show, which is launched outside the park on the Townsend family’s property, is very limited from inside the park. Development near the fireworks launch site and the event’s impact on City Hospital’s campus, especially when weather delays the show, also were cited as concerns.

Karos said he was told the fireworks’ launch site’s proximity to Interstate 81 also places limits on the location and Parks & Recreation officials noted that the event no longer generates revenue for the park as it once did.

Without specifically mentioning the shooting that occurred at last year’s celebration, Karos told council members he was aware of the problems that have surfaced with the event.

Unfortunately, the majority of the people have to suffer as a result, Karos said.

The July 4 shooting last year occurred just before Parks & Recreation Executive Director Steve Catlett was about to announce the evacuation of War Memorial Park due to an approaching storm.

An 8-year-old girl who was wounded was an innocent bystander in an argument between two men that turned violent, police had said.

The girl was released from City Hospital in Martinsburg after being treated for flesh wounds to her legs, her mother had said. Gabriel “Ziggy” McGuire, the man the shooter apparently targeted, also was treated at City Hospital and released, a hospital spokesperson had said.

The trial for the alleged shooter, Daniel Lee Herbert, is set for May 28. It was rescheduled last week after Herbert’s attorney, Matthew Harvey, told 23rd Judicial Circuit Judge John C. Yoder he had yet to receive case files from the defendant’s previous attorney.

Herbert, who is incarcerated at Eastern Regional Jail, was indicted in October 2012 on two counts of attempted murder, three counts of malicious assault, five counts of wanton endangerment, and single counts of person (felon) prohibited from possession of a firearm and fleeing from a law enforcement officer (on foot).

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