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Fireworks back on for Lathrop July 1st event

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POSTED February 28, 2012 12:59 a.m.

LATHROP – The Lathrop City Council was clear about two things Monday night.

First, they’re willing to sacrifice free hot dogs and watermelon at the July 1 celebration – a hybrid between Fourth of July and Lathrop’s official birthday – for a smaller event that focuses on local families at Valverde Park instead of the massive turnout they saw last year at the community venue at Mossdale.

Secondly, they favor a donation-based approach towards covering the $9,000 budget shortfall in the event over dipping into general fund reserves.

In the end, the body voted 3-1 – Vice Mayor Christopher Mateo dissenting – to cover the cost upfront and raise funds individually to pay back the money being used to secure the pyrotechnics operator and send a message to non-profit groups in the community that the city is serious about maintaining traditions.

Councilwoman Martha Salcedo was absent.

The Lathrop Rotary has already pledged $5,000 that will be used to cover half of the aerial fireworks display, and the group – comprised of local business people – will be the co-sponsor of the event after Monday night’s decision to move forward and share the billing.

And the council gave city staffers and other agencies – like Lathrop Police Services – lots of credit for reworking the finances and scaling back an event that carried a price tag that was closer to six figures when it first came before the body.

Lathrop Police Services Lieutenant Chris Pehl said that they were able to scale back their estimate drastically when they learned the city wasn’t planning another massive gathering like they had last year. It was something that overwhelmed resources and had even organizers making plans to cut back the following year.

“We had so many people there last year,” said Arnita Montiel – who put her name into the hat to help organize once again. “We had people coming from Lake Tahoe and all over. We said that we wouldn’t have anything else free again because of that.”

Financially, the committee that organized last year’s event had roughly $8,000 left to contribute leaving just under $9,000 needed to cover the total cost after the $5,000 donation from the Lathrop Rotary.

Mayor Joseph “Chaka” Santos was an avid proponent of going out and soliciting donations from local businesses to make the event possible from the start, and earned support from Councilman Sonny Dhaliwal who agreed to help hit-up businesses and individuals in the community.

Vice Mayor Christopher Mateo, however, stood strong in his position that as long the city is still pinching pennies they have no business to be paying for parties.

“I’m not a killjoy – have a party every day if you want to. But not when it’s funded by the city,” Mateo said. “If it’s a private entity that’s taking care of all of the bills then I’ll be the first one in line. But having the city pay for it is irresponsible.

“Where are your priorities?”

It was Councilman Omar Ornelas, however, that came up with the “pay first and reimburse later,” approach that satisfied nearly all of the interested parties. Doing so, he said, would help put the issue to rest and secure the necessary contracts.

The total cost of the event can change depending on the amount of overtime needed and whether additional public safety personnel need to be called in to handle the crowd.

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