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.