Change In Fireworks Provider Splits City Council

OCEAN CITY – This summer’s 4th of July fireworks displays were in question this week with the City Council deciding to go in a different direction with providers.

Recreation and Parks Director Tom Shuster explained that the Independence Day fireworks bids were opened on Feb. 14 and set at a budget amount of $62,500.

Since then, city staff has narrowed it down to the lowest bid offered by American Fireworks of Hudson, Ohio submitted in the amount of $20,000 for each of Ocean City’s two shows, one downtown and one at Northside Park, totaling $40,000. There was a second piece to American Fireworks bid for an improved show for $5,000 more. The third option offered to the council was to accept Zambelli’s bid of $28,750 per show.

“We have been using the Zambelli fireworks from Pennsylvania for a number of years,” Shuster said.

Shuster explained that it is difficult to foretell the entertainment value when it comes to pyrotechnics. Firework companies are offering bids on certain size shells but it is unknown what the town will receive on the inside of the shell.

“They are going to come to us and say I am going to give you this many three-inch shells but I don’t know if they are a chrysanthemum, which is that great big bursting circle that you see with a bright color to the middle, or if it’s a small star, that is my challenge,” Special Events Director John Sullivan said. “I can’t tell you that you are going to be happy if you pick the low bidder.”

Councilman Doug Cymek started off by recognizing Zambelli’s had offered a higher bid but couldn’t help but feel concerned over American Fireworks offering a two-tiered bid.

“What I am getting at is we know Zambelli, we have worked with them for many years, I would really like to see if we can remain to have that relationship with them because we know what we’re getting,” he said.

Councilman Joe Hall went in the opposite direction by immediately setting a motion to accept the low bid made by American Fireworks of $20,000 per show.

“I believe they are an established company and this won’t be their first go around,” he said. “They will do just fine with the Town of Ocean City.”

Sullivan couldn’t help but express his concern over American Fireworks offering an improved show for an additional $5,000 as well.

“You are accustomed to a certain show … you have had one company,” he said. “I can’t tell you what kind of shell it will be and I just need to express my concern that if you go with a low bidder you might have a less then beautiful show then you are accustomed to … or it could be better.”

Councilwoman Mary Knight agreed that American Fireworks’ two bids raised a red flag for her also.

“I don’t want to be sitting up there this year and have people say, ‘Oh my gosh, Ocean City has cheaped out on us this year,’” she said. “Zambelli has come in at a lower price, we are still going to save money, we know what we’re getting, so I cannot vote for American Fireworks at $20,000 especially the way they presented it.”

Councilman Lloyd Martin expressed interest in viewing a demonstration, or video, of the firework show Ocean City will be receiving.

“It’s like buying a car and not knowing what in it,” he said.
Council President Jim Hall said he was willing to give the new company a try.

“You have to take a chance … if we are disappointed then that’s the end of it, we are not going to use them again,” he said.

The council voted to approve American Fireworks’ bid in a three year contract with a vote of 4-3, with Cymek, Knight and Martin opposed.

8 comments on “Change In Fireworks Provider Splits City Council

  1. I don’t understand the councils dilemma, any reputable pyrotechnics company should have a CD/video of the programs they can offer for review so they can be assured of exactly what they are getting for the $$.

  2. I am a business person in MD for years and people travel a great distance to view the fireworks shows in Ocean City. My family has had the privilage of seeing them for many many years and being 60 I have seen a lot of them. I have relatives in the fireworks business and I can tell you first hand that if the new company isnt as good people will not be back the next year and in today’s economy you need every tourist or person coming there to spend their money. If they don’t, then you don’t grow as a town and that is not good for anyone –locals or vacationeers. The Zambelli’s have been in that business for years and have a good reputation, check with the pyrotechnics association for yourself. To keep this in laymens terms “If it ain’t broke don’t try to fix it” I wish you luck and think you really need it!God Bless America and please rethink your vote for the good of your town. Ask Jim Mathias his opinion then ask yourself what would mayor Kelley have done! If you want more drop me an email

  3. I couldn’t let this pass. City HALL again squandering to do things on the CHEAP. 1 major holiday in July and to do it cheaper because of the lowest bid? Why wasn’t this philosophy used in prior years…years when the revenue stream was plentiful? Nah – don’t answer that one, but do use this excuse for this July 4th: “The 4th was down for OC, simply because it was on a WEDNESDAY this year…so families didn’t stay a full week..” I’m sure The Dispatch can find a similar comment the last time the 4th was on a WEDNESDAY. Although our Parade was a great success – MOM nature sure hated OC since it was foggy and chilly all weekend! Lookin out at Assawoman Bay Sunday at 857pm ~ BUSHMAN!

  4. Sounds like a classic “low ball” bid from American. I couldn’t agree more with Councilwoman Knight’s comment that their bid structure raises a “red flag.” American seems to be playing games with the bid process (Hey, for another $5,000 you can get a really great show!!!). Zambelli should protest the award. And why was American awarded a 3-year contract? If the Hall’s want to count pennies and ignore performance then the contract period should be for 1 year with 2 option years. If it isn’t, then amend the award. Good luck with this…nothing more obvious than a cheap fireworks show.

  5. Sorry, just give these people something to watch while they drink their cheap beer and they really don’t care. Let it make noise and they will like it better.

  6. As a general statement, I do agree with “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” because Murphy’s Law always seems to prevail. I did a search of American Fireworks and it appears they have been in business since 1902. This, in many ways speaks for itself. From the Zambelli web page. When Antonio Zambelli emigrated from Italy to the United States in 1893, he carried a big dream and a little black book full of his family’s fireworks recipes. Through the stewardship of his late son, George Zambelli Sr., Antonio’s dream has grown to include some of the most creative and innovative pyrotechnics in the world.
    That states a lot of history and experience. But wait, haven’t we become a society of people who toss out the old and bring in the new because, (I don’t know what to write next).
    We should always be open to new ideas and ways of doing things but, we should never cast out the respect of first inquiring what those who rely on the decisions we make and how they will be received.
    This is why the council is now faced with the dilemma of ‘collective bargaining’. They didn’t listen to what people were saying or at least their ‘perspective’ of the way things are done.

  7. This appears yet again a spilt Council vote of 4-3. How is it that 4 members always seem to know the answers and the other 3 aren’t being told the information? Is this Council meeting without the knowledge of the other 3? Should we ask the State or Federal government to review to see if laws are being broken? Seems 4 people tend to know the votes, who will motion, who we second and who will vote prior to any meeting. I say enough. Begin to work as a true team that cares about Ocean City. Not what 4 people think. Do we still know the new direction of the 4 after firing Dennis Dare? I have never been told that direction and the media seems to forget to keep asking what that direction is. Rumor has it they have narrowed the new City Manager down to 10 people. None are local, none have tourism experience and it appears what we were paying Dennis was a steal for what others in his field are making. Nothing like saying you have a plan and realize you really have no cure where you are going. To our Council – If you clearly can not define where you are going, how can you get there? If you can’t figure out the answer, here it is; You can’t get there. Every Resident, non Resident Owner, Business Owner, City Employee and others that work and make a living from Ocean City deserve better. Stand up with me. WE ARE OCEAN CITY. Not the 4 Council members and actually not the 7. It’s our Town. It’s our right to take it back in October. Remember, it’s own Town

  8. Only one fireworks company has done the largest firework show fired annually in America for over 20 years. That show is Thunder Over Louisville, and the company is Zambelli. Nuff said!

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