CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y.-- A long standing holiday tradition will not take place in the Town of Cheektowaga this year.
There will be no fireworks at Cheektowaga Town Park this 4th of July. Three members of the town board blame it on overtime cutbacks in the town's budget.
Town Supervisor Diane Benczkowski told 2 On Your Side last week the organization that has run the festivities over the years, the Cheektowaga Patriotic Commission, has disbanded and so far, no one else has come forward to fill that void.
But on Wednesday, Councilmembers James Rogowski, Gerald Kaminski and Alice Magierski released a statement saying all departments in the town were asked to cut their overtime by 5% during the town's 2017 budget process.
They say the 4th of July fireworks were eliminated because the town did not have enough police personnel and other staff available for the celebration. They encourage residents who would like to see the fireworks return for next year to reach out to the Board in time to discuss the matter for the 2018 budget.
"Please understand that the lack of this year's 4th of July fireworks was in no way the fault of the Chief of Police, the Police Department, the Facilities Department or the Patriotic Commission," said the statement. "This was strictly a decision made by the Town Board for the purpose of saving taxpayers' money."
Supervisor Benczkowski says other holiday events will still go on, including food trucks and a concert by country artist Ricky Lee on July 3rd sponsored by State Assembly-woman Monica Wallace. The town's annual parade will be at noon on July 4 down Walden Avenue.
"I've lived here all my life and I was very saddened we found out at the end of December that the patriotic commission who always ran the July Fourth festivities disbanded," she said.
2 On Your Side's Jeff Preval spoke by phone with a current member of the commission. He didn't want to be named and took issue with the word disbanded and says the commission still exists, it's just not active because many of its members are not available to perform their duties.
The commission also says the town doesn't have the $20,000 to put on the show, but the supervisor assured us the money is there in the budget.
"REPORTER: Why can't you just go out and hire a pyrotechnics company someone who knows how to run the fireworks operation and put up some fireworks that way?
"I'm the town supervisor. I have a lot on my plate as far as governing the town, doing town business, somebody needs to be in charge of it, I was diligently looking for people to take that over and we weren't able to find anybody yet," Benczkowski said.
The town supervisor says her office took on putting the parade together but doesn't have the time to focus on the fireworks show.
"REPORTER: So if another organization were to step in and say, 'Hey we want to operate the fireworks display,' you would be very welcoming of that?
"Yes they would have to show us their records and what they're using the money for," Benczkowski said.
The town supervisor says because the commission won't be involved this year, rides for kids won't be there.
The $20,000 approved for the fireworks show, will now just sit in the budget.