AUBURN — People accustomed to watching the Twin Cities July 4 fireworks display from atop Goff Hill will have to find a different viewing perch, thanks to state and city budget cuts.
Deputy police Chief Jason Moen confirmed Friday that police will not close Court Street to Goff Hill traffic Thursday for the Liberty Festival fireworks display.
The city traditionally closes the road between Lake and Holly streets for the display, turning the 1,000 feet of road into a viewing plaza. Hundreds of people typically gather there to watch the fireworks over the Great Falls.
"Usually, it takes one officer to close that, but we've reduced our staffing for the event so that's no longer an option for us," Moen said.
Moen said the decision is part of budget cuts approved by city councilors Monday. That budget, which begins on July 1, cuts $405,000 in overtime for city employees.
Those cuts are just one part of a $1.7 million reduction the City Council made to cover a shortage in state revenue sharing. Legislators approved that revenue sharing reduction as a part of the state's two-year budget Wednesday.
Moen said the cuts mean police do not have the budget to close down roads for special events, including the Liberty Festival, August's Great Falls Balloon Festival, the Dempsey Challenge in the fall or various running and bicycle races.
"In the past, there has been a list of approved events that the city has provided in-kind services for, and we've always budgeted overtime for that," Moen said. "But now, with the budget reductions, we are not going to be staffing those events."
Organizers of the Great Falls Balloon Festival issued a news release Friday morning confirming that this year's event would be smaller because of Auburn's in-kind budget cuts. The festival usually features events in Lewiston and Auburn, with concerts on stage at Auburn's Festival Plaza. All acts and food vendors will be located in Lewiston this year.
But Moen said the Liberty Festival events at Great Falls Plaza and around Festival Plaza will go on this year as scheduled. Event staff will close Great Falls Plaza to through traffic to make room for vendors and the celebration Thursday, and the city will close Main Street around Festival Plaza.