By Jane Smith

    In what was described as a “transition year” for special events, Delray Beach commissioners approved a small-scale New Year’s Eve gathering hosted by the city.
    The New Year’s Eve First Night event won’t be advertised or promoted outside the city and it will be free for families, said Stephanie Immelman, who heads the city’s Marketing Cooperative. After a special events committee rejected the First Night event proposal because of its unspecified high public safety costs, she appealed to the commission in early October.
    “We can’t go from a hundred miles per hour to zero,” said Mayor Cary Glickstein. Had the commission known about the $35,000 expense, it could have been a line item in the budget, he said. The commission approved taking the money from the city manager’s discretionary fund to pay for this year’s family-friendly First Night.
    Commissioner Jordana Jarjura was the lone dissenter. “There’s a plethora of events in December,” she said. “It’s an improper use of the city manager’s discretionary account. … We have to hold ourselves to the same standards as the private sector.”
    Her colleagues, though, feared that killing the nearly 20-year-old public event would have them perceived as Scrooges. The commissioners were happy, however, “to buy down the impact of the event.”
    In previous years, buttons and wristbands were sold to allow patrons to participate in activities from 5 p.m. to midnight, with two fireworks displays. Last year, about 30,000 people attended First Night festivities.
    For this New Year’s Eve, First Night will take place from 5 to 9 p.m. No buttons or wristbands will be sold. The event will feature free activities for families and have the carousel, ice skating rink, miniature golf and kids train ride at their usual ticket prices.
    Immelman wanted to bring in food trucks and a DJ, but the mayor said he would not support having any vehicles on the Old School Square grounds. Commissioner Shelly Petrolia pointed out that the circular driveway in front of the Crest Theatre is paved and could possibly be used as a location for food trucks.
    Last year, the event grew out of control. With crowds clogging Atlantic Avenue the police had to close the street to vehicle traffic. This year, the avenue between Swinton Avenue and southbound Federal Highway will be closed starting at 4 p.m. and reopen early on New Year’s Day.

    In other business, the commission approved splitting its police and firefighter pension board into two boards after hearing that the state had approved the split. On the new boards, the City Commission will appoint two members, the police and firefighters union will appoint two members to the respective board and the fifth member will be picked by all four.
    Petrolia voted against the split because the state’s opinion was not in writing. Even so, she selected her picks for both boards. Vice Mayor Al Jacquet selected his picks at two October commission meetings.
    Glickstein said it was “a big accomplishment for the city” to gain control over its public safety pension funds by negotiating with the unions for three years. It also means the city will collect $1.3 million to pay down the unfunded pension liabilities and another $504,000 in discretionary money.

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