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$7K plus in taxes bringing carnival to Lathrop in May

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POSTED April 16, 2013 2:01 a.m.

LATHROP – There are few things as All-American as the old-fashioned carnival and the fun that comes with it.

But is that fun worth more than $7,000 of taxpayer funds required to bring the event to town to begin with? The majority of the Lathrop City Council says yes.

In a split-vote – with council members Martha Salcedo and Steve Dresser dissenting – the council voted to ink a contract with Butler Amusements that will bring the carnival giant to the community Mother’s Day weekend, and agreed to put up nearly $7,500 as a principal sponsor.

A profit-sharing agreement with the company could return all, if not more, of that money as long as the preset sales benchmarks are all hit.

Betting on something with the public’s money was something that Salcedo – and to a lesser extent Dresser – wasn’t willing to do in a day-and-age when municipal funds mean more than ever.

“This is not our money,” Salcedo said. “That’s what I keep saying about things like this. It’s not our money to play around with.

“Even If I’m assured that we would come out even on this, I have a problem with what it is that we’d be doing.”

Dresser’s arguments hinged on a similar, but structurally different, argument.

In order to secure the space next to Target that would suitable for a carnival, the city also has to ink a contract with Watt/McKee Development and cover a $4,000 rental fee that, according to City Manager Steve Salvatore, goes to pay for the cost of the executed agreement and any cleanup that might need to be done after the fact.

Adding that to Lathrop’s agreed-upon amount to front for the cost of the carnival, Dresser said, puts a risk burden on the city and its residents three times the amount that Butler has agreed to – something that he wanted rectified before the agreement was signed.

Councilman Paul Akinjo, however, had a different way of looking at the carnival. If the facts were taken at face value as a business proposition, Akinjo said that he probably wouldn’t be able to support it. But since it’s something that will provide an entertainment outlet to the community, he is able to approach it differently.

Mayor Sonny Dhaliwal said that he sees the carnival as a chance to give Lathrop and those that call it home a happening of their own on a corridor that he’s certain will bring in an abundance of outside guests.

It was a Butler Amusements carnival in Milpitas that initially captured the attention of the Mayor – who commutes to Santa Clara County. After seeing a jammed midway, Dhaliwal put a card in the hand of an administrator, and he eventually got a call from a Butler Amusements administrator that sat down with the city to work out an agreement.

Lathrop, the representative said, has everything that they’re looking for when it comes to putting together a family show.

“There’s a saying in our business – ‘you can practically smell the money,’” he said. “Once those lights are on it’s like the pied piper – everybody comes.”

Attempts to rework the weekend and possibly bring the rides back for the annual Lathrop Days celebration were negated when Butler said it already had a previous engagement that weekend.

Dhaliwal said that he hopes that the rides will work themselves into the celebration the following year.

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