As published in the Record Journal, Tuesday March 27, 2012
By Russell Blair
WALLINGFORD — The town councilors who started a nonprofit fund to save the town’s Fourth of July fireworks celebration want more input on discussions regarding a vendor for this year’s show.
Democrat Jason Zandri and Republican Craig Fishbein started the Wallingford Fireworks Fund in 2010, the year the town dropped funding for the celebration from its budget. The nonprofit has raised enough money to pay for the show in each of the last two years.
Zandri said that in the past he approached vendors and negotiated quotes, which he passed on to Parks and Recreation. But this year the town has been seeking quotes without Zandri’s assistance.
“There’s no precedent to say we can’t be at the table during the discussions,” he said.
Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. said that the purchasing process has to be overseen by the town.
“We have requirements to hire anyone,” he said. “The [Parks and Recreation] department takes responsibility for them.”
Dickinson said that he didn’t want anybody other than the town to have contact with vendors.
But Fishbein said other organizations have worked with the town to solicit vendors for events.
“Wallingford Center has input for Celebrate Wallingford,” he said. “We want to be part of the discussion.”
Fishbein said that he and Zandri weren’t looking to select the vendor “but we want to be in the loop.”
Zandri said there are benefits to having him or the fund negotiate with vendors. Last year he was able to achieve a $1,500 discount on the fireworks display by offering the vendor a chance to make a $1,500 tax-deductible donation.
For the April 10 council meeting, Zandri said he will request putting an item on the agenda to draft a “memorandum of understanding” between the town and the fundraising organization. In the future, other individuals may be involved in the process and not know the history, Zandri said.
“Things may change from year to year ... if we’re going to continue to do this thing I think some rules should be set,” he said. “I want something formal with the town.”
Among the things Zandri would like to discuss and formalize is the deadline to raise the funds, which typically has been the last Friday in May, a deadline he feels was “arbitrarily set” by Dickinson.
Zandri said Monday that $16,642.49 had been raised toward the July 7 show. The entire cost of the celebration, including town services, is estimated at $30,000. Last week, the fund received a $10,000 donation from the owners of the Campus at Greenhill, an office complex located on Leigus Road.
Information about the fireworks fundraising is available at http://wallingfordfireworks.blogspot.com.
File photo – Courtesy of the Record-Journal
Spectators watch as fireworks light up the sky over Sheehan High School in Wallingford on July 2, 2011.