AUSTIN — With COVID-19 and guidelines for counties in the green phase, the Austin Community Pride Committee had to come up with a new plan to celebrate the Fourth of July.
The committee was facing two major obstacles for holding this year’s event, said Pride Committee President Joe Pennypacker. Due to the planned construction project at the Austin Area School, the school grounds were not available for this year’s activities. COVID-19’s state regulations for the green phase prevents recreational gatherings of more than 250 people, therefore the committee had to rethink how and where the fireworks display could be presented.
Hosting the actual event at any location would undoubtedly surge the gathering numbers beyond the recommended 250 people. With the Borough’s approval, the committee is planning to launch the display on Saturday, July 4, from a hilltop that would be visible from most locations within and around the Austin Borough. The planned location is owned by Joe Fowler and currently houses a cell phone tower and the County 911 tower.
“We have already been in touch with Young Explosives, the fireworks vendor, and they will support any change of launch location,” Pennypackers said.Austin Fire Chief Nathan Burgett has agreed to support the launch location and stated he would provide fire, EMS and fire police support to the community leading up to, during and after the event. Burgett said this would include monitoring any potential influx or pop-up gatherings that would push the limits of the 250 people. Burgett thinks the potential for a brush fire is very minimal this time of year as most of the trees are green. An Incident Action Plan has been drafted by Burgett and additional details will be included as plans progress.
Pennypacker hopes most of the residents are able to have small social gatherings with close family and friends at their respective properties while maintaining social distancing. Even with the fireworks being canceled in surrounding areas and the potential influx of people from other towns, the committee feels social distancing can be achieved safely.
According to Pennypacker, the Pride Committee is covered for up to $2,000,000 from Young Explosives should anything go wrong.
Prior to the event, the Austin Pride Committee will announce additional details.
Also during the council meeting, Ordinance Enforcement Officer Nathan Burgett reported he is continuing to move forward with the District Magistrate on property clean up and letters which were sent out this spring.
Burgett said there are currently 11 outstanding property issues, plus four issues which were prior to COVID-19. The council will also be meeting with its attorney to discuss the dangerous structures within the borough.
Upon request from Fire Chief Burgett, the council approved allowing the Fire Department to use water from the hydrants to fill swimming pools of property owners located within the borough, provided Kurt Logue confirms there is an adequate water supply. AVFD will pay the borough $35 to cover 5,500 gallons of water and will provide it with the amount of water used for each pool. The council will then charge the pool owner for any overage. Burgett noted these activities will be used for training purposes for new AVFD members who are learning to run the pumps.
The next council meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Tuesday, July 7.