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Friday, July 1, 2011

WALLINGFORD FIREWORKS FUND - Brighter forecast eases fireworks anxiety

As published in the Record Journal, Friday July 1, 2011

By Russell Blair
Record-Journal staff
(203) 317-2225

WALLINGFORD — The weather forecast has improved for the town’s Fourth of July fireworks celebration Saturday, but should it rain, organizer Jason Zandri says the event is unlikely to be rescheduled.

Zandri said he was told this week by Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. that rescheduling the fireworks on such short notice would be impossible, but Zandri believes it can be done.

“You pick another date, you work it out with the vendor and publicize the new date,” Zandri said. The logistics are difficult, but not impossible.”

Dickinson said Thursday that the trouble with rescheduling the event has to do with scheduling overtime for the police officers needed to safely run it.

“I think it’s primarily because of difficulties in scheduling the kind of manpower that is needed,” Dickinson said. “People are called in for service who would normally be off in order to have enough people to provide the public safety.”

The town had long funded the annual fireworks show, but budget cuts threatened to cancel it last year. Zandri, Town Councilor Craig Fishbein and other volunteers managed to raise enough money to save it and have since set up a nonprofit fireworks fund. This year, they needed to raise $24,150 by May 27.

Dickinson said the money for the display had to be collected well in advance so the Police Department would have enough time to find officers to work the event.

“The Police Department needed to know by the beginning of June to get the word out,” Dickinson said. Scheduling the same number of officers for another day would be difficult.

“It becomes impossible to do that over multiple days,” Dickinson said.
Another part of the concern over potential cancellation of the event is the overtime that could still have to be paid. If the event is called due to weather after police, fire and public works employees report for duty at the site — 5 p.m. — Zandri said $12,000 worth of overtime would still have to be paid.

“There’s the possibility we have the show with a chance of thunderstorms, it starts pouring at 6 p.m. and we call the show when they’re already out there,” Zandri said. “That’d be the perfect storm.”

He added that the fund has $1,000 lined up for next year, but not enough money to cover a second day’s worth of overtime.

If the event is canceled earlier in the day, the overtime won’t have to be paid, but it’s up to the town to set a new date and find available personnel. If the town doesn’t have to spend the money for the overtime, Dickinson said, it would be returned to the fund.

Zandri said he remembered fireworks being rescheduled when he was younger, but said he can’t remember a rain date being used recently. Dickinson said to his knowledge the town has never needed to shoot off its Independence Day fireworks on a rain date. Since the Wallingford Fireworks Fund delivered the check to the town, Zandri said that the town has been handling the planning of the event. Dickinson said that the decision of whether to call the event due to weather would be up to the police, fire marshal and parks and recreation.

The fireworks begin at 9 p.m. Saturday, with viewing available on the grounds of Sheehan High School, Moran Middle School and Highland School. Weather forecasts on Thursday were predicting a very low chance of rain Saturday, compared to forecasts earlier this week of intermittent thunderstorms.

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