After the Lodi City Council unanimously approved an ordinance allowing fireworks around the Fourth of July, Mayor Bob Johnson joked “go forth and blow things up.”
Lodi will allow nonprofits to sell state-approved fireworks from noon to 9 p.m. on June 28 and 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. from June 29 to July 4. Residents will also be able to set off fireworks during those same time periods and also from 9 to 11 p.m. on June 29 to July 4.
State-approved fireworks are called “safe and sane fireworks.” They include spinners, handheld items like sparklers, cone fountains, base fountains, box or tube fountains, novelties and smoke items.
Illegal fireworks are basically anything that shoots in the air, Councilman Larry Hansen said. Illegal items include firecrackers, sky rockets, bottle rockets, Roman candles, mortars, cherry bombs and helicopters.
City Manager Rad Bartlam said he received no negative feedback on the ordinance, and many of the nonprofits in the community are excited to have the opportunity to make money.
Councilwoman JoAnne Mounce did hear from some residents who said they hate fireworks, but they mostly express problems with illegal ones that shoot in the air.
“I have not had the greatest exposure to fireworks in the past, but I see this as a great opportunity for the city to provide a safe and sane holiday and allow nonprofits to have a stand,” she said.
TNT Fireworks, a large wholesale distributor, recently approached the city about working with nonprofits to open booths in town.
Since the idea surfaced, about 70 nonprofits have said they will apply to sell fireworks, said Dennis Revell, president and CEO of Revell Communications. The public relations company is representing TNT.
The council voted to allow six booths in town.
The city will select the nonprofits through a lottery system every year. If a nonprofit wins the lottery two years in a row, it will not be able to join the lottery for a year.
Two nonprofits will be able to submit together, so they can both run the stand. With every purchase, the stand is required to hand out fliers about legal and illegal fireworks use in Lodi.
The stands will be located throughout town and are required to be on paved surfaces. They must be 25 feet away from buildings and have sufficient parking.
Originally, city staff recommended four stands. Some cities, including Stockton, allow one per 10,000 residents, which would be about six in Lodi. City Attorney Steve Schwabauer said city staff wanted to be conservative.
“Our concern simply was we literally have no experience in Lodi about what the potential pitfalls are,” Schwabauer said.
TNT Fireworks said it would like to see 12 to 15 stands in Lodi, but would compromise at eight. By limiting the number of stands, the city could cause extremely long lines and traffic risks around the stands, Revell said.
“Customers may say, ‘if I have to wait in line for a half-hour, I can drive to Stockton or Galt and get it quicker,’” he said.
Councilman Phil Katzakian and Hansen suggested increasing the number of stands to eight, but the rest of the council voiced support for limiting it to six.
“It’s so rare that we have opportunities for the nonprofits to raise funds. We’ve all attended fundraisers and are all aware of how difficult, especially in this economy, it is to raise funds,” he said.
While sixth-grader Drew Klaege is not personally a fan of fireworks, he said they should be allowed to be sold and used in the city. He came with his Boy Scout troop and said they are interested in selling fireworks.
“If we don’t have fireworks here, our money will not stay in the city ... Most people buy fireworks no matter what the city says,” Klaege said.
As a teacher and golf coach at Tokay High School, Jeff Tracy has watched the school district continually make cuts. Sports have had to rely on boosters to keep going, he said. Tracy hopes the nonprofits will be civil, and join together so 12 nonprofits will get to sell ever year.
“That’s a lot of money for one group. We need to share the wealth,” Tracy said.