BARSTOW Nonprofit organizations that are willing to brave the heat and run fireworks stands could pull in a cool $20,000 over the Fourth of July holiday period, according to some estimates.

West Barstow Little League President Jim McCall said even a fraction of that would make a big difference for his organization's youth sports programs.

Barstow Judo Club President Ernest Smith said his judo students' parents were eager to tap a new source of fundraising income. It could help the group send students to the national championship for judo, he said.

Nineteen groups attended a mandatory safety meeting Thursday morning for fireworks sales, with more expected at a scheduled evening session.

The potential windfall for nonprofit organizations means Fourth of July will be "a little more exciting" for Barstow residents this year, Assistant City Manager Oliver Chi said.

While it will ultimately be up to the City Council to approve a selection process at its meeting Monday, staff is recommending they use a lottery selection process, Chi said.

In that process, the city would use something similar to a bingo drawing to select eligible organizations that have completed the preliminary application form, Chi said. That event is tentatively scheduled for May 15 at 6 p.m. at the City Council Chambers.

Sellers can recognize safe and sane fireworks because they are the only kind that contain a seal of approval from the state Fire Marshal and are imprinted with the safe and sane logo. They also contain a manual and instructions for use.

Prospective fireworks vendors were encouraged to take down license plate numbers and contact the Barstow Police Department if anyone tried to sell them illegal fireworks while their stands are operating.

"We don't expect to really be penalizing a lot of folks," Chi said, "but that is an enforcement mechanism that is in place."

City Manager Curt Mitchell may also revoke an organization's fireworks permit if the city experiences problems with a fireworks stand and bar an organization from receiving future permits for up to five years.

Representatives from the city's two approved fireworks wholesalers TNT Fireworks and Phantom Fireworks said they sell their product to nonprofit organizations at a wholesale price. It would be up to the individual organization to choose the retail price, although a suggested retail price is provided by both companies. The companies would then collect any unsold merchandise at the end of the selling period.

Shawn Wessell, a board member at High Desert Charities, said she hoped no one would undercut other organizations on the price of fireworks. But a successful fireworks stand would have a "major" impact on her group's fundraising, she acknowledged.

About four to six employees are needed to operate a stand, TNT representative Louis Linney said. Partnering with local property owners might be cheaper for fireworks stands than negotiating an agreement with larger chains like grocery stores, Phantom salesperson Jamie Smith said.

Smith said nonprofits can trust his company because they share the mutual goal of turning a profit.

"If we don't help you make money, you're not going to want either of us back next year," Smith said.

Contact the writer:
(760) 256-4126 or spearson@desertdispatch.com