Last Updated: 4:23 p.m.
In a special meeting called for Monday, the Flagler beach City Commission will consider approving a $24,000 agreement with a Green Cove Springs company to produce the July 4 fireworks. But the chairman of the city’s recently disbanded fireworks committee is raising concerns about the arrangement, absent answers to a series of questions about the company.
The deal would replace previous arrangements with Fireworks by Santore, the Palm Coast-based company that had produced fireworks for decades–until the city failed to contact it in time this year to book the date. City Manager William Whitson informed the city commission last week that there could be no July 4 fireworks, but that he was working on a replacement.
After seeing reporting on the city’s potentially dark July 4, a few companies contacted city officials to offer themselves up as alternatives. Among them: North Florida Pyrotechnics, a company established four years ago by Ryan Allen of Green Cove Springs.
“I’ve been a pyrotechnician for 15 years and I started the company about four years ago,” Allen said in a brief interview this morning. The company does not yet have a functioning website. He said it’s in development. The fireworks company is not registered with the Division of Corporations. One of his companies is registered as Island Outdoor Management. He said the fireworks operation is “under a DBA,” or doing business as a differently named company. But Island Outdoor management is a lawn care company. He has briefly owned other companies previously.
There was no procurement process. The city is handling the matter as an emergency needing immediate execution. One other company submitted a proposal: FX Wizard. Police Chief Matt Doughney and Fire Chief Bobby Pace evaluated the two proposals and recommended North Florida Pyrotechnics.
FX Wizard’s proposal, Doughney said in a summary email to Whitson on Tuesday, was over budget, lacked consideration of permit fees, requested “unreasonable” fallout zones, including the deployment of a “watercraft security vessels” plus paid hotel rooms for their staff. The company also sought on-site security from July to through July 5, which the city is not staffed to provide. “This request is highly unreasonable and not with the designated budget,” Doughney wrote.
North Florida Pyrotechnics, in comparison, would be more in line with the sort of show Santore produced, and came in $1,000 under budget.
The fireworks would include 3, 4, 5 and 6-inch shells–same as those used by Santore–including Peoneys, Gold Brocades, Silver Chrysanthemums, Red Comets, Blue Comets, White Comets, and Bombettes, among other types of fireworks. Use of the larger shells will depend on winds that night. “If wind speeds are optimal the night of the display we can get away with a max size shell of 6,” Allens said in his written proposal.
“This company is one ( 1) of two ( 2) companies recommended by Santore; our previous vendor,” Doughney wrote. That does not appear to be accurate. Santore’s Eric Larsen said the only two companies he would recommend are Zambelli Fireworks of Boca Raton, Fla., and Warrendale, Pa., or Pyro Technico of Pennsylvania and Los Angeles.
“I put in a proposal for it but U doin’t know if I’m going to be awarded it or not, I haven’t been officially been given a notice,” Allen said this morning. When told of the proposal going before commissioners Monday, he said: “We’ll I’m smiling.”
North Florida Pyrotechnics will produce the fireworks shows at Palatka’s Blue Crab Festival and has produced shows in Green Cove Springs and north Florida. (A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the company had already produced the Blue Crab Festival show.)
Allen initially contacted Flagler Beach Mayor Suzie Johnston, who referred him to Whitson. She said the most important thing regarding fireworks is to follow the recommendations of the committee the commission had appointed to study July 4 fireworks and events in general, and that completed its work in January. The committee’s main recommendation was that the fireworks should go forward–as long as the city has the policing and staffing capabilities in place to manage the event safely. That conclusion was independent of whoever would be setting off the fireworks, but it assumed that there would be July 4 fireworks. Johnston said the matter now appears to be moving toward a workable resolution.
Friday afternoon the chairman of the fireworks committee, Flagler Beach attorney Scott Spradley, sent a letter to City Clerk Penny Overstreet, raising a series of questions. Spradley was “all for obtaining a contract for 4th of July Fireworks following the failure to timely procure Fireworks by Santore,” he wrote, but he asked about insurance requirements, questioned the legal name of the fireworks company, its website, its history and whether the city had looked into its safety record. “Obviously, these are all important questions which must be asked and answered before even considering the awarding of a contract,” Spradley wrote, asking that the letter be circulated to the commission, the city manager and the city attorney. (See the full letter here, and an updated letter here.)
It isn’t clear why a proposal from Imperial Fireworks was not among those considered by Doughney and Pace. Whitson had told the commission last week that the city had been in contact with that small, Florida-based company, and that there was a 50-50 chance the company could sign on.
For Flagler Beach, the resolution would be the latest turn in a nearly three-year saga over fireworks, starting with the city’s cancellation of two straight years of shows because of Covid, the proposal by some commissioners to cancel future July 4 shows and possibly shift them to New Year’s Eve, or let Palm Coast take over, Palm Coast’s own attempt to take over the July 4 fireworks date anyway, which the city resisted, the committee’s work and recommendations, and then, the revelation late last month that the city had failed to book the show on time.
“Now that I know more of Flagler Beache[‘s] past shows and current needs I can permit, produce and insure a SPECTACULAR twenty-minute Fireworks Display for $24,000,” Allen wrote.
The story is not over: the city is on course to demolish its pier and build a new one. During that period, there presumably would not be any fireworks in Flagler Beach, potentially making this year’s show the last for a few more years. That’s assuming the pier project follows its original schedule, and that its construction will take no more than the two years currently projected. Capital projects of that size in Flagler Beach (such as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineer’s dunes reconstruction project that was to have been completed by now, but has yet to start, through no fault on Flagler Beach’s part) have not usually stuck to schedule.
See the fireworks documents submitted to the commission here.