After last week's article in the Commonwealth Journal announcing that the city of Somerset had decided not to hold its annual SomerBlast Fourth of July event this year, the newspaper's website conducted a poll to see how the community felt about the decision.
The results could not have been closer. As of 4 p.m. Saturday, the poll showed that 254 people had voted in favor of not holding the event - "The money can be better utilized for other events," - while 233 voted against the decision - "I loved SomerBlast and felt like it was a great Somerset tradition."
Eighty-four people voted that they felt neutral about the decision.
The Commonwealth Journal then asked Somerset Mayor Alan Keck his opinion on the results.
"While the sample is relatively small, I believe the poll echoed what I've heard from people in the community; the majority are either indifferent to the show or prefer we spend the money elsewhere," Keck said.
"With that said, I recognize many people truly enjoyed it. I don't make decisions like this lightly, but they also aren't made in a vacuum. Each decision is made with the larger budget and financial situations in mind. We have $500,000 or so new pension cost. Like others, our insurance premiums rise every year. That money has to come from somewhere, and we've ignored this reality for years and years."
Keck said that even without the fireworks, SomerSplash water park will be open on the Fourth of July.
Beyond that, Keck pointed to other events, like the previous month's Food Stock, and an upcoming August food-and-music event as gatherings for residents to enjoy.
"While I hope we can take some of the savings from the event and create new events, like the recently announced Streets and Eats Downtown, I also have to be willing to make tough decisions when it's best for the city. When we do have events, we will have them for all generations to enjoy and often downtown where we can enjoy them all day long, not just for a few hours at night."