By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Divine Intervention? - Council Considers Fireworks Overhaul
Placeholder Image
Acting on a concern brought to his attention, Escalon City Manager Henry Hesling offered the annual fireworks lottery up for discussion at the council's recent regular meeting.

Each year, local service clubs, churches and non-profit groups are given the opportunity to put their name in to host one of the three available fireworks booths. Since allowing the use of Safe and Sane fireworks within city limits by ordinance, the city has four booths selling the fireworks for each Fourth of July holiday period.

"Everyone pays $100, the city always gets a booth and there are three other spots available," Hesling explained. "There's been some concern that the same group gets it (a booth spot) every year or some of the groups get it more."

Hesling said since the issue was raised to him, he felt he had to at least bring it to the council and see if they wanted to make any changes or adjustments in the way they award the booths.

The main issue, Hesling said, seems to be that some groups put in the $100 year after year, never getting a payoff in the form of hosting a booth, to help raise money for their group.

"We don't give the $100 back, we keep it," he noted of the fee paid to get into the drawing.

All the groups that put in pay the money; those that win the booth drawing ultimately make that money back in fireworks sales.

Hesling said the group that has had an inordinate amount of luck in the fireworks lottery has been the Escalon Covenant Church. It was pointed out to him that the church has been one of the groups chosen for hosting a booth every year since 2005.

"I don't know if they get divine intervention or what, but they won the lottery for all those years," Hesling said.

Other groups, ranging from Sober Grad to the EHS baseball program, other area churches to the local Outlaws youth football, have also put in over the years.

"The Outlaws applied every year (from 2005) but 2010 and they did get it in 2011," Hesling pointed out, adding that they went five years, paying $100 per year, without getting a return on that investment.

"We could do something like set it up to where, if you were successful and get the booth one year, the next year you skip, you don't apply," Hesling offered. "We could also return the money to those ones that aren't successful."

Council members generally agreed that they like the current system of everyone wanting to try for a spot to put the money in and take their chances in the random drawing. Everyone gets one spot, noted councilman Ed Alves, so everyone is equally represented and has as much chance as anyone else to get chosen for the fireworks booth.

"I'm just wondering where it goes from there," Alves said of possibly changing the system. "To me, a lottery is a lottery. If it's not broke, don't fix it."

Hesling responded that the main concern he heard was the successful run for Covenant.

"That one group has had it seven years in a row," Hesling said.

"Hey, they're lucky," answered Alves.

Councilman Robert Swift asked about polling the organizations that typically apply for a booth and see what they thought about the $100 fee. Councilman Jeff Laugero questioned what the city used the money for, since right now they keep everyone's $100, whether they get a fireworks booth or not. Hesling said if helps pay for recreation programs and services citywide.

"Every year, it fluctuates," he told the council of the number of applicants, with the city making anywhere from $300 to $900. Council members said they would further discuss the possibility of returning the $100 application fee to those organizations that are not drawn in the lottery.

Hesling is to make contact with the organizations and get some feedback on that possibility, as well as the cost of the application itself.

But for now, with council members not seeing a better, fairer way than the random draw for selection, that process will likely stay intact.

"It's the luck of the draw," Alves said.

And even if there is a little 'divine intervention' working on behalf of Escalon Covenant, Hesling said that's okay, too.

"You can't complain about that," he said.