Archive for Thursday, October 12, 2006

City asked to restrict fireworks vendors

PRIDE members: For-profit groups cutting into margin

October 12, 2006

Basehor PRIDE president George Smith is worried about maintaining the sense of "small-town America" in Basehor.

The future of the city's Independence Day celebration, student scholarships and other services that the PRIDE groups provide could be in jeopardy because of declining profits from the groups' fireworks stand.

"Profits are down 43 percent since 2004 from our fireworks stand," Smith told city council members last week.

Basehor PRIDE, Gold PRIDE and Youth PRIDE run the annual fireworks stand with the Kiwanis Club and Project Grad. The city provides about half of the cost of the fireworks.

The remainder of the cost, as well as the profits from sales, is split among the three groups. The PRIDE groups use profits from the stand for a $500 scholarship to a Basehor-Linwood High School senior each year, the fireworks display at the city's annual Independence Day celebration, flowers that are planted each spring at the entrance of the city and the police and firefighters appreciation banquet in the fall.

Smith said Youth PRIDE has another smaller fundraiser during the year, but the fireworks stand is the PRIDE groups' main fundraiser. It only yielded $588 this past summer.

"We give $500 for a scholarship, which means there is very little left over for other things such as the police and fire banquet," Smith said.

One of the reasons for the decline in profits may be competition from other fireworks stands in the area. Smith said there were four others within the city limits this year. Smith said he came to the council a few years ago asking for help with the same problem. The council responded by upping the fee for a fireworks stand from $25 to $50. He said that while he appreciated the effort, more needs to be done to remedy the situation.

"I'm asking the council to adopt an ordinance or whatever legal method necessary to only allow not-for-profit organizations to sell fireworks in the city," he told the city council last week.

Smith emphasized that all profits earned from the fireworks stand go back into the community.

"It's not about PRIDE or Kiwanis," he said. "It's about the scholarships we give out to the kids and of course it's also about providing the Fourth of July celebration. Granted we don't do truly wondrous things, but if our funds dried up, we may not have the Fourth of July celebration."

Smith also presented a few other scenarios to council members that could cause the demise of the community groups because of lack of funds. He said the groups rely on several "freebies" from the community such as those citizens who are licensed pyrotechnicians that set off the fireworks at the Independence Day celebration. If they were no longer able to offer their services, PRIDE could not afford to pay a company or other individuals to take their places.

"Our resources are going down because our profits are going down," Smith said. "It's not how big the event is, but the memories. We want the children to have great memories. It could cease to exist, and that's small-town America."

City council members said they agreed with Smith, but they were not sure if Smith's proposal was the correct solution to the problem.

"I want to accomplish what you want to accomplish, but I think we need to take a different approach," council president John Bonee said.

However, a representative from Wald and Company, which supplies fireworks for the PRIDE, Kiwanis and Project Grad stand, told Smith that the city of Lee's Summit, Mo., implemented the not-for-profit rule for fireworks stands this year. This was confirmed by a Lee's Summit city official Tuesday afternoon.

Other solutions, such as limiting the number of permits issued for fireworks stands within city limits, were discussed, but Mayor Chris Garcia said the city will follow up on Smith's request.

"We're going to have to do a lot of research on this," Garcia said. "We have to look down the road and see if any legalities jump out."

The matter will be researched by city attorney John Thompson and placed on the agenda at a later date, city officials said.

"I don't intend to let it drop," Smith said. "They (city council) hold all the cards, so it's kind of a situation where I'll take whatever I can get."

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