Three members of the Lodi City Council voiced support Tuesday for drafting an ordinance allowing state-approved fireworks to be used and sold within city limits.
The council members said they would like to discuss and vote on an ordinance in time for fireworks to be sold this Fourth of July.
About 40 people attended Tuesday morning’s shirtsleeve meeting, including many leaders in the nonprofit community.
The residents said their organizations need the additional fundraiser during this difficult economy, and Lodi should not be losing money to cities like Galt and Stockton that already sell fireworks.
“You talk about a budget crisis. You talk about what you go through. Nonprofits in this community, non-profits in this state, non-profits in this country, are absolutely being inundated with a loss of revenue,” said Richard Jones, CEO of the Boys and Girls Club.
Currently, fireworks producing a spark or flame are outlawed in Lodi.
If the city allows fireworks to be sold, staff will set up a system to select nonprofits every year, issue permits and inspect the booths.
Mayor Bob Johnson said it is important that the city collects enough money to fund the additional work of creating a fireworks program.
“The fireworks companies are in it to make money, and that’s fine. But if we can make money, that would be in our self-interest as well as support the nonprofits,” Johnson said.
The council received a presentation from a public relations company representing TNT Fireworks. The large wholesale fireworks distributor approached the city about working with nonprofits to open booths in town.
Dennis Revell, president and CEO of Revell Communications, said an advantage of allowing state-approved fireworks is that it can provide another revenue source for the city.
Cities can require every organization selling fireworks to pay sales tax as well as licensing fees to secure a booth, he said. He recommends that the surcharges do not exceed 7 percent.
California allows firework sales to begin at noon on June 28 and continue through noon on July 6.
During the sales, the fireworks company secures a parking lot, erects a stand about 24 to 32 feet in length and delivers the fireworks to the stand to sell on full consignment, Revell said. Once the sale is over, the nonprofits return any unused merchandise to the company for a full refund.
The nonprofits also receive a bill from the distributor for a certain percentage of sales.
The presence of legal fireworks reduces the use of illegal fireworks, Revell said, because people have options.
Also, the city can crack down with administrative fines of up to $1,000 to people who use illegal fireworks or do not follow the timetable of when fireworks can be set off.
The Lodi Fire Department responded to 200 fireworks-related calls for services around the Fourth of July last year, often confiscating them and threatening fines, Chief Kevin Donnelly said.
But because the department only has one clerk in the Fire Department Prevention Bureau and no fire marshall, there is not enough staffing to effectively enforce the fireworks ban, Donnelly said.
To sell fireworks, Lodi would have to put together regulations, have someone process the permits, inspect the firework booths and manage the program, which will take more staffing, Donnelly said.
Another concern is that there will be more emergency personnel needed to respond to Fourth of July accidents. He said children under the age of 15 are the most likely to be injured.
If fireworks are allowed in the city, Jones said his organization will have safety workshops to prevent accidents. He said many of the kids who come to the club are already using fireworks, regardless of the city’s ban.
“We are 100 percent in support of whatever it takes to make it right, so it is safe for kids,” Jones said.
There are always going to be parents who are negligent with their children, said Pat Patrick, president and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce. But it shouldn’t prevent the city from allowing responsible residents to use fireworks.
“It’s the risk of something that might happen versus the assurance that something good will happen over and over and over again through many non-profits in the city,” he said.
Stockton lifted its ban in May of last year and started allowing non-profits to sell fireworks. Lodi resident Merle Gooler said he worked a booth in Stockton for the Swenson Park Golf Course.
People from Lodi are already buying fireworks — just not in town, he said.
“I saw a lot of Lodi people going to Stockton, buying fireworks and bringing them back ... That profit is going to Stockton, but we need it here,” Gooler said.
Because nonprofits will be in charge of selling the fireworks, Elizabeth Westphal, vice president of Project Thank You, said the city can count on the rules being followed.
“We are not going to need a police officer sitting over our shoulder because that’s who we are. We follow the rules. We do not need to be policed,” she said.
Several of the speakers also said it is important to preserve traditions on the Fourth of July.
“It’s an opportunity to be pro-American and celebrate what America is about,” said Rudy Gutierrez, with First Baptist Church Men Ministries.