COVINGTON - There will not be a Fourth of July community celebration this year.
At this point, it's too late to adequately plan and raise money for the event without knowing what, if any, involvement the county will have, said Pastor David Payne of The Church at Covington.
The annual event is held at the church's campus off Ga. Highway 142 in Oxford, with the city and county pitching in for the fireworks and the church raising money for entertainment and other activities.
The cost of the fireworks is $7,580 with the county and city splitting the cost at $3,790 each.
County commissioners agreed by a vote of 3 to 2 in March that they would not pay the county's usual portion, citing a shortage of funds.
That decision resulted in the city of Covington also pulling its funding, since the council had made its participation contingent upon the county's involvement.
Payne said at the time that he could likely raise additional funds for the fireworks, but needed cooperation from the county and city on public safety services, such as police and fire protection and EMTs.
At a recent City Council meeting, City Manager Steve Horton floated the idea of using the money the city would have paid for the fireworks toward overtime for public safety personnel.
But he informed the council Monday night that Payne had notified him the event has been canceled.
"It's due to the decision by the county. They never stepped forward," Payne said Tuesday. "Our problem is we're just a little over two months out from the event. We've not been able to do all the fundraising or any official planning toward the event. We've passed the window of opportunity to pull the event off. We can't do it this late in the game."
Payne said the cost of the event, including the fireworks, could top $50,000, not including the public safety component.
"Should the city and county desire to relook at the event next year we will be more than willing to participate in a partnership with them again," he said. "We will provide some other events to the community this year but cannot do anything on July the Fourth because of the numbers of people who would potentially attend."
Some city officials have expressed disappointment in the county's decision.
Mayor Kim Carter said Monday night that in these troubled times, people need a reason to come together in friendship and celebration.
She added that many who attend the event shop locally for food and other supplies to take to the celebration. Payne said in an earlier interview that many local restaurants sell food at the event and visiting entertainers stay in local hotels.
"The economic development aspect alone - all those dollars stay in Newton County," Carter said.
Crystal Tatum can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.