As Published in the Record Journal Saturday April 17, 2010
By Dave Moran
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WALLINGFORD — If Jason Zandri gets his way, the town will still have a traditional Fourth of July celebration this year — but first his Save Wallingford’s Fireworks 2010 effort will have to raise a considerable amount of money in private donations to make that scenario a reality.
“I guess the back story for me is I saw this thing get cut again this year, the fireworks, just like it was last year,” Zandri said Friday as he was walking around the downtown area handing out fliers and trying to raise the profile of his fundraising effort. “Fifty-plus years of having fireworks in town is just something that I don’t want to see end. I’m going to try and bring it out to the people and have them funded.”
Like last year, Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. proposed a budget for the 2010-11 fiscal year that does not include funding for the town’s Fourth of July fireworks display. But unlike last year, when the then-Democratic controlled Town Council cobbled together $30,715 in savings from a renegotiated insurance contract at the eleventh hour to save the celebration, that scenario does not appear as likely under the new Republican council.
The cost of the celebration is spread across a variety of town department budgets, including overtime for police and fire personnel, entertainment expenses and the cost of the fireworks themselves, totaling more than $33,000 for the entire affair.
Zandri said Friday that he was unsure whether his fundraising effort will be a success, but that he is going to explore every option to raise the money, while also trying to find ways to trim the total cost of the celebration.
“I’m going to turn the rock over, that’s for sure,” Zandri said, noting that he started a Save Wallingford’s Fireworks 2010 Facebook page that garnered almost 200 friends in a day.
Zandri has scheduled a $25 a-ticket fundraising dinner May 21 at Zandri’s Stillwood Inn, a banquet facility owned by his uncle, Jim Zandri. Meanwhile, he’s exploring options such as finding a corporate sponsor or two to pick up a large portion of the tab, and possibly asking for permission to approach several of the town unions that would be required to work overtime during the celebration to see if they would consider reducing overtime fees.
Robert Parisi, the Republican chairman of the council, who also sits on the committee that organizes the Fourth of July celebration, tried a similar effort to save the fireworks last year without much success. Parisi said he is going to throw his support behind Zandri’s effort this time around, but said he did not want to predict whether it would be successful.
“Let me say that I hope it will happen,” Parisi said. “It’s an uphill struggle, but it depends on how many people get in on it right away.”
When asked if he thought the council might try to restore the fireworks funding again this year, Parisi said he would have trouble supporting such a move.
“That’s a fine-tuned budget,” Parisi said. “I just am very hesitant — I don’t mind saying it — to tamper with it in any way. I liken it to a house of cards, and if you pull the wrong card the whole thing is going to collapse.”
Zandri said he must notify Telstar Display Fireworks , a New Hampshire-based pyrotechnic company that the town typically contracts with, by June 1 to book the fireworks display for this year. He said the fireworks themselves cost about $18,000, and if he doesn’t have enough money raised to make a down payment by that date, he would likely cease his fundraising and return any money donated after he paid any expenses incurred.
“I’m probably going to have to return the difference,” Zandri said. “I think that would be the proper thing to do.”
Even Dickinson seemed to support the effort to fund the fireworks through private donations.
“If people are willing to make private donations, we’d be able to do it,” he said Friday.