Fireworks contract causes discontent

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 16, 2005

AHOSKIE – The real explosion came after the fireworks.

In their monthly meeting here Tuesday morning, the Ahoskie Town Council weighed offers from two companies bidding on the town’s July 4th fireworks display. It was after Council members awarded the contract to an out-of-state firm that the verbal fireworks began.

Both firms – Pyrotecnico of Pennsylvania and Grand Illusions of Windsor – presented identical monetary bids ($6,300). The Pennsylvania company, which actually serves its North Carolina customers out of an office near Raleigh, has provided Ahoskie’s Independence Day aerial salute since 1992. Grand Illusions, a new company, drew rave reviews following their fireworks display during Ahoskie’s Heritage Day celebration last fall.

The difference between the firms came in the total number of &uot;shots&uot; (any fireworks shell leaving the ground) and the height attained by those shots (shells are measured in diameter: one-inch to eight-inch; their attainable altitude is measured by diameter, example – a three-inch shell reaches 300 feet before exploding, etc.).

Pyrotecnico’s proposal called for a 598-shot display, with all of those shells measuring three inches or more. Eighteen were of the six-inch variety.

On the other hand, the proposed show by Grande Illusions totaled 3,372 shots, including 277 shells measuring at least three inches in diameter. They matched Pyrotecnico’s number of six-inch shells.

Both firms promised shows in the 20-to-30 minute range.

Following the individual presentations (Kim Reiber representing Pyrotecnico and Bobby Hoggard of Grande Illusions), Councilman Ronald Gatling expressed his concern about visibility, especially when considering a great number of people watched the fireworks offsite (the show is traditionally held at Hertford County High School).

&uot;There are a number of tall trees around the high school’s baseball field (from where the fireworks are shot),&uot; Gatling noted. &uot;I’m concerned that the view may be blocked if those shells are not fired high enough.&uot;

Hoggard admitted his proposal did not contain an equal number of three-inch shells or greater as the bid made by Pyrotecnico. However, he did point out that his proposal included nearly six times the number of overall shots made by his competitor.

&uot;Our show is busy throughout, Hoggard said. &uot;We fill in between the gaps with a lot of smaller displays. It keeps a viewer from having to wait for something to happen while another big shell is being set off.&uot;

Based upon their 10 years of good service to Ahoskie, Gatling motioned to accept Pyrotecnico’s bid. It passed unanimously.

The decision sparked comment from an Ahoskie resident/business owner seated in the audience.

&uot;Why not keep this money in our area,&uot; quizzed Tommy Hurdle after being granted permission to address the Council. &uot;I’m not pleased that you are sending our money to Pennsylvania when you had the chance to spend it right here at home.&uot;

Hurdle continued to voice his displeasure following the meeting.

&uot;I don’t feel we were given proper consideration,&uot; said Hurdle, who is part owner of Grand Illusions as well as the owner of Tommy & Company, a Main Street hair salon. &uot;An attempt was made to try and show there was only a few hundred shots difference between our proposal and Pyrotecnico. That’s not true at all. There’s a few thousand shots of a difference.&uot;

Hurdle said he left the meeting feeling that Ahoskie’s elected leaders do not support local business.

&uot;I’ve lost my faith in this Council,&uot; he said. &uot;Their actions concerning this measure leaves me with the impression that they do not have small, local businesses at heart. They made it very clear to me that they would rather take my tax dollars and spend it out-of-state rather than having that money recycled through the local economy.&uot;

Hurdle did say that Mayor Linda Blackburn was supportive of his company’s efforts.

&uot;We worked very well with the Mayor during Heritage Day last year,&uot; he concluded. &uot;She was very supportive of us. As a matter of fact, she was the only one who would look me in the eye after the Town Council made their decision. The rest of them dropped their heads. They should be ashamed; they sold out their own hometown.&uot;