MERIDEN — The city has traditionally funded its annual Independence Day fireworks show through its operating budget, but some city leaders want to change that.
The City Council is considering a committee that would raise the roughly $30,000 needed through donations.
“As much as I want to have celebrations, I think the things we can fundraise for should be taken out of the budget” and used on more pressing needs like road repairs, said Republican City Councilor Michael Carabetta, who recently submitted a resolution to form the committee.
The “Fourth of July Fireworks Committee” would consist of 11 members — seven residents appointed by the mayor, two councilors, the mayor, and the director of parks and recreation.
The council voted this week to refer the resolution to its Finance and Parks and Recreation subcommittees, which will discuss the idea up at an upcoming meeting.
The fireworks have been traditionally launched from East Peak in Hubbard Park.
Because funding needs to be secured by April in order to hire a vendor, the city will likely need to fund this year’s show, according to Carabetta. The hope is that the committee will be able to privately fund the show beginning next year, he added. Some of the costs for this year’s show, may be offset by private donations, however.
Joe Vollano, the owner of local fuel supply company Filler Up, said he’s raised over $7,000 for this year’s show.
“Back on Jan. 8, I said we were going to donate five cents on every gallon of oil I sold here in Meriden. We’re up to $7,328 that we’re going to donate to the fireworks,” Vollano said at a council meeting this week.
Vollano, a fellow Republican, thanked Carabetta for pushing the fundraising idea.
“To say the citizens have to pay for it when, again, a lot of businesses in this city make a lot of money off of residents” is wrong, Vollano said. “I care about the citizens, I care about the taxpayers even more. I can afford it, my business can afford it. So if my business can afford it, there’s a hell of a lot more that can.”
Over the years, other towns, including neighboring Wallingford, have also moved to privately fund their annual Independence Day fireworks show. After Wallingford Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. cut fireworks funding from the town’s budget in 2009, Republican councilor Craig Fishbein and Democrat Jason Zandri established the nonprofit Wallingford Fireworks Fund to raise private funds.
After years of cobbling together donations, Zandri, Fishbein, and other volunteers called it quits in 2016. That year, Zandri and other councilors proposed putting money back into the budget for fireworks, but instead, council chairman Vincent Cervoni raised $30,000 from local businesses and institutions, including Choate Rosemary Hall, and has continued to annually raise the $30,000 necessary for the fireworks.
This year, because the town is celebrating its 350th anniversary, a 350th Jubilee Committee has been raising private donations for a fireworks show that will be held in June.
Carabetta said he was inspired by the Jubilee Committee to form a similar fundraising body in Meriden.