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Aerial fireworks may return to Ripon
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Staff reporter for the
Manteca (Calif.) Bulletin
RIPON — A glimpse of an improving cash flow with an eye to possibly scheduling July Fourth fireworks for the first time in three years set a positive mood at Ripon’s Tuesday night City Council meeting.

For July – the first month of the new fiscal year – the city coffers were in better shape than they were in July of last year, according to City Administrator Leon Compton.  He noted that the city balance sheet was up $300,000 for the month.

Compton said Ripon saw another increase in black ink in August by $100,000 over the previous August, guarding with the reality that the city is not out of the woods financially.  Things are looking better, he said, with property tax monies yet coming from the state during the month of December.

He said that the first two months of the fiscal year showed a positive increase in funds by $417,000.  Compton added that the comparison period of 2009 showed $700,000 more in expenditures than in 2010.  The 2009 calendar had 27 pay periods, though, due to an extra week compared to the normal 26 weeks: a $150,000 difference in payroll.

Mayor Chuck Winn recalled that at one point the city was $1.8 million in the arrears, noting that the figures can be misleading since property taxes don’t flow into the city coffers until the last month of the calendar year.

Compton admitted being a little more pessimistic in preparing the 2010 budget than he was in putting the 2009 projection together. Hopefully the sales tax revenue has leveled off and will not continue to drop further, he noted.  It is running now at about a 50 percent low, he added.

Speaking toward the upcoming Fourth of July celebration, Councilman Charlie Gay admitted greatly missing the fireworks display that has been tabled from Ripon for the last two years.  He said a recent visit to Moraga impressed him in seeing that city already asking for help from the public in the form of private donations to underwrite their fireworks extravaganza.

Mayor Chuck Winn appointed a committee of two council members to research the possibility of restoring the Ripon fireworks next July that were a popular part of the past years’ celebrations.

One Ripon resident, Anthony Stockman, complained to the council of being denied the chance to volunteer with the police department as part of the (VIPS) Volunteers in Police Service,  because he works a 40-hour week.

He said he received a very courteous letter telling him that he didn’t qualify because of his work schedule, however he presented a persona that was ready to put in the needed extra hours.  He said he had been told that the city’s experience with allowing VIPS members with a daily work scheduled had been unproductive.

Mayor Winn suggested that he call interim Police Chief Ed Ormonde on Wednesday and plead his case to see if the two couldn’t work out his desire to volunteer between them.

As for the city’s request for more community volunteer help, Public Works Director Ted Johnston told the council that he has had one individual who has offered to adopt Acacia Park where he will take care of the weed problem and mow the lawns gratis.

Johnston said another citizen has volunteered to wash all the windows at city hall on a routine basis.  The need for others who are willing to take care of the graffiti abatement still exists, he added.

Planning Director Kenny Zuidervaart told council members that consideration of the big box ordinance is scheduled to go before the Ripon Planning Commission at its late October meeting – a forerunner to a workshop before the commission and the council.

The ordinance is being crafted in response to larger stores being discouraged from locating in the Ripon community – such as Wal Mart several years ago – resulting in sales tax monies going to Manteca and Modesto.  The sales tax would have made a difference in the city’s general fund status in the current economic downturn, it was earlier noted.