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Will fireworks be legal in 2010?
Staff proposing $500 permit fee if sales continue
The sale of fireworks in Manteca is set to expire at the stroke of midnight this Fourth of July. - photo by Bulletin file photo
The sale of fireworks – an endeavor generating close to $250,000 in net proceeds for 14 local non-profits each year – is set to end at the stroke of midnight on July 4.

It’ll take an act of the City Council to extend fireworks sales for another five years.

That’s exactly what the council will consider doing when they meet Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the Civic Center, 1001 W. Center St. If the council does extend the sales then it means they are legal to use as well. If they didn’t allow sales to continue, the use of any type of fireworks in Manteca will then become illegal again.

Interim Fire Chief Kirk Waters in a memo to the council noted that “in an effort to be pro-active” staff evaluated the fireworks ordinance and conducted a meeting with representatives of several of the non-profits that have sold fireworks in the past. They also met with representatives of the fireworks industry.

An inspection of municipal records shows that the first four years of legalized fireworks sales, there were 18 fireworks-related emergencies in Manteca accounting for $19,000 in property damages. The four years prior to fireworks being allowed to be sold legally in Manteca, there were seven fireworks-related emergencies and $100 in property damage. There have been no documented injuries associated with the use of fireworks within the City of Manteca.

Staff is recommending the council consider two options – extending the legal sale of fireworks for another five years or eliminating the sale of fireworks by letting the sunset clause take effect.

If the council opts to allow fireworks sales to continue, staff is recommending that:

•a $500 cost recovery fee be assessed each non-profit that is awarded a fireworks permit. The fee will cover a portion of the fire department’s cost in monitoring fireworks sales. Several representatives of non-profits have indicated they felt that $500 was a reasonable fee. Fees range from $100 to $1,600 throughout California. The fees would generate $7,500 toward the actual $9,405.60 annual cost of overseeing fireworks sales

•the city conduct an annual lottery process which means it will only apply to the upcoming year. Currently those that don’t secure a permit in the lottery for the current year automatically get one for the second year. Some of those organizations end up backing out after a year’s wait.

•the city limit each non-profit to no more than two years in a row selling fireworks.

•the city change the minimum separation between fireworks stands and parked vehicles to 20 feet to be consistent with the California Fire Code instead of the 25 feet now allowed in the Manteca ordinance.

The 14 fireworks booths collectively gross around $500,000 a year in Manteca. The booth operated by the Manteca Police Officers Association – which is exempted from the lottery – generates funds to help offset part of the cost of the free aerial fireworks the city conducts at Big League Dreams on the Fourth of July.

Councilman Vince Hernandez is credited with leading the effort to allow the legal sale of fireworks. His argument over five years ago was that non-profits could benefit greatly plus it made no sense as many Manteca families simply drive to nearby cities that legally sold them and then returned to Manteca to illegally discharge them.

Critics of the fireworks have argued that they are a major detriment to the safety of pets and create major fire damages.

The only major incident concerning fireworks actually involved the aerial display when it was at East Union High stadium and coordinated by the Chamber of Commerce. The chamber was sued by a nearby dairy goat farmer who claimed the fireworks caused his dairy herd to stampede, injured several animals and drastically reduced milk production for weeks.