Manteca Bulletin - Manteca,CA
RIPON — Fireworks of any kind could be outlawed in Ripon by the time Fourth of July in 2008 rolls around.
Tuesday, the Ripon City Council voted to approve a one year contract with Fireworks and Stage FX America that will continue the tradition of hosting a Fourth of July Celebration — carrying with it a price tag of $35,000 for the show alone.
But concerns raised by two City Councilmen and members of the audience could not only lead to the decision to eliminate the community-wide event next year, but squash future sales of safe-and-sane fireworks as well — something that the Manteca City Council approved for the first time two years ago.
Citing massive crowds, parking problems, public safety concerns, liability issues, and fiscal responsibility as key reasons behind the need to examine the annual community investment, council members Red Nutt and Mike Restuccia bonded together and represented the two lone-dissenting votes on the item.
“I think that many of the people that come are from out of town and it seems when Ripon does something that it was to be best and the biggest of anybody,” Nutt said. “But it costs $35,000 and I’ll bet that it will cost twice that much when it’s all said and done when you factor in overtime from our police, fire, and city personnel.
“I don’t think it’s a smart expenditure of taxpayers money.”
The agendized item was initially listed on the consent calendar for the second City Council meeting in February before it was brought back as a discussion item Tuesday night.
Ripon Consolidated Fire District Chief Dennis Bitters pointed out to the council that the 8-inch shells included in the program would pose significant dangers to surrounding areas because of the massive fallout area required.
In the past, he said, houses have caught fire because there wasn’t enough space for the byproduct of the massive mortars to land clearly — noting that as a department he advocated the large community gathering focusing on a central show over the independent safe-and-sane fireworks because of the additional dangers associated with them.
And community input was mixed.
Stu Long spoke openly about instances he experienced while living in Contra Costa County where neighbors would actually bet on how long it would take for a house to catch fire — most often due to illegal fireworks that accidentally got away from their handlers.
Stephanie Hobbs let her heartfelt concerns be known by pointing out the festivities every year provided an outlet and an opportunity to enjoy a community event with her children.
Even though the motion for a one-contract passed, both Vice Mayor Chuck Winn and Councilman Dean Uecker recommended that there be ample time provided before the next budget cycle to determine whether the event is feasible to continue — adding that further examination into the safe-and-sane fireworks needs to be continued as well.
Ripon was the first city in San Joaquin County to approve the use of safe-and-sane fireworks, and despite the fact that major problems have been contained since they became legal some fire officials believe that they provide an avenue for illegal fireworks to thrive.
“When you allow the sale of safe-and-sane fireworks those illegals start rolling in and we have a hard time catching them,” said Fire Marshal Joel Castro — noting that children quickly learn how to construct dangerous devices by altering the components of the safe products. “They are the ones that are going to kill somebody.”
By JASON CAMPBELL
Staff reporter of the
Manteca (Calif.) Bulletin
March 13, 2007