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City keeps fireworks on July 4
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Safety — and the desire to have less illegal fireworks launched — trumped Big League Dreams bringing in upwards of $40,000 and non-profits enjoying  a 40 percent  bump in the sale of safe and sane fireworks.

The Manteca City Council split 3-2 with Mayor Steve DeBrum and Councilman Richard Silverman dissenting to keep the city’s aerial fireworks display and celebration on Saturday, July 4, instead of moving it to July 3 due to the three-day holiday.

After hearing staff list the financial pros and cons that on paper favored moving the aerial display shot off over the BLD sports complex to July 3, Councilman Mike Morowit zeroed in on police staffing and safety.

Police Chief Nick Obligacion answered a query from Morowit by confirming from past experience that the number of calls for illegal fireworks run extremely high both July 3 and 4 when the aerial celebration was moved to July 3 while in years when the aerial display stayed on Independence Day, the illegal fireworks activity on July 3 was considerably less. The end result is the department has to beef up manpower on both nights when the aerial fireworks are moved to July 3.

Councilman Vince Hernandez asked Fire Chief Kirk Waters about whether moving the aerial fireworks to a night earlier impacted the fire department. While staffing wouldn’t change, Waters said the amount of illegal fireworks almost doubles with the frenzy that normally takes place on the Fourth of July being duplicated on July 3. There are illegal fireworks shot off the entire week that safe and sane fireworks are legal starting June 28 but not in nearly the large numbers as July 4 and on July 3 when the aerial fireworks display is shifted.

Councilwoman Debbie Moorhead noted in the past the top complaint she had heard was that it wasn’t following tradition to switch the Fourth of July celebration to a day earlier.

Silverman indicated he didn’t mind the shift if it saves money. He added it also gave families like his the option to attend two aerial celebrations — one in Manteca and one elsewhere.

Manteca’s Deputy Director of Parks and Recreation Toni Lundgren noted that in the last six years the aerial fireworks have been held three times on July 3 and three times on July 4.

Attendance at the festival preceding the fireworks saw 2,322 people in 2014 when it was held on July 3. In 2011 when it was shifted to July 3 there were 3,607 in attendance.

She added by having it on July 3, the city saved 5 percent of the cost of firing them off plus is able to have a larger grand finale. Moving the display and celebration to a day earlier makes it easier to secure staffing from police and parks and recreation personnel since most don’t want to work the holiday. Overall city costs are reduced 13 percent by shifting to a day earlier.

Lundgren said the fireworks savings by switching would have come to $1,200 plus $6,000 less the city would have had to pay in overtime. Some of that overtime savings is offset because the police department has had to add additional officer on July 3 when the aerial fireworks are moved to that date as well as beef up July 4 staffing due to illegal fireworks.

The decision means BLD will not be able to book a 40 to 50 team tournament that weekend. That translates into a loss of between $20,000 and $25,000 in food and beverage sales plus $14,000 to $15,000 in gate receipts for BLD according to Lundgren. And since the tournament would have drawn a number of teams from out of the area, it also means less Manteca motel rooms would be booked which in turn reduces room occupancy tax receipts.

Lundgren also said that non-profits in the past have reported sales are 40 percent higher from fireworks booth sales when the city moves aerial fireworks to July 3.

The Sunrise Kiwanis plan to stage the Fourth of July parade on the actual holiday. The same goes for the Manteca Kiwanis and their traditional Fourth of July breakfast that attracts upwards of 1,000 people a year.