Fireworks dispute sparks heated Kingman council debate
Some council members think vendor stiffed city
KINGMAN - Bad feelings over a perceived slight from the company that put on last Independence Day's abbreviated fireworks show ignited another kind of fireworks at Tuesday's City Council meeting.
Councilwoman Erin Cochran and Harley Pettit, who helped lead the Kingman Boomers in collecting more than $25,000 from residents and the business community to fund the show, were opposed to the Council accepting a bid from Lantis Fireworks and Lasers out of Draper, Utah.
Last year's show ended prematurely after pyrotechnician Jeremy Lee sustained massive head injuries when a prepackaged box of fireworks improperly detonated.
The accident occurred roughly two thirds of the way through the show. The city sought a prorated refund, money that would have been added to this year's donation.
Lantis paid the city a $6,500 refund, a sum Cochran found insulting.
"I have some serious issues using this company," she said after Fire Chief Chuck Osterman told the Council that Lantis was the only firm to submit a bid.
"They didn't give us a proper refund last year."
Pettit leveled the most serious complaint. He accused the company of essentially "blackmailing" the Council.
"They said if you bring us back next year, we'll give you $10,000. If not, we'll give you $6,500," said Pettit.
Pettit also said the Council at the time said it would "never do business" with Lantis again, a comment Watson disputed.
An angry Pettit said the city should "go dark" on the Fourth of July rather than work with Lantis, "So we're not rewarding this company."
Watson pointed out that Lantis also put on the 2012 display, one that "people said was the most beautiful show they'd ever seen."
Osterman said the department sent out bids to three firms, and took the somewhat unusual step of following up with the other two vendors in an effort to attract a bid.
With the Fourth of July less than two months away, Osterman suggested it was "late in the game" to reject the bid from Lantis and send it back out.
Osterman also said Lantis paid a refund of less than the $8,000-plus the city was expecting, citing upfront costs and that the more expensive fireworks had already been used when the accident stopped the show. The grand finales involve a lot of rapid-fire fireworks, but these are not the kind that provides a more extravagant display, said Councilman Richard Anderson.
Mayor Janet Watson suggested there were three options: accept the bid from Lantis, cancel the fireworks show this year or table the item for two weeks to see if another firm could be enticed to come to Kingman.
However, Councilwoman Jen Miles said that since the city would have to reject the Lantis bid before it could re-bid the show, Kingman could get "squeezed out."
Cochran, who along with Watson and many others, spent months collecting donations to fund the annual show for the past three years, ever since budget constraints compelled the City Council to drop funding the event.
"They shorted us," said Cochran. "All the blood, sweat and tears to get that money."
Not willing to forego a fireworks show this year, Miles moved to award the roughly $25,000 bid to Lantis. The measure passed 5-1 with Cochran casting the lone nay vote.
Vice Mayor Carole Young was not present. Her absence was prearranged.