Atlas takes heat in Mass.
Pelkey responds to towns’ complaints
As Atlas PyroVision of Jaffrey prepares for the Monadnock Festival of Fireworks at the Cheshire Fairgrounds in Keene on Aug. 16, an event that’s being billed at “the largest pyromusical festival in New England,” the company is facing questions about two recent fireworks shows it put on in Massachusetts.
According to reports in The Recorder, a newspaper based in Greenfield, Mass., Atlas may have short-changed both Greenfield and South Hadley, Mass., at Fourth of July events by shooting off fewer shells than were actually contracted for.
A July 18 article in The Recorder states that documents provided to the paper appear to show that between 2011 and 2014, Greenfield, Mass., “was shorted an average of 600 to 650 shells — the difference between the number of shells it paid for and the number fired during each show.”
Officials in South Hadley are also investigating, after they reportedly counted fewer shells than promised at that town’s July 5 show.
Atlas Chief Executive Officer Steve Pelkey said Monday that the company did provide fewer shells this year for the Greenfield show. He said an Atlas employee who has since left the company and gone to work for a competitor was the person responsible for designing the Greenfield show and overseeing packing of the materials. That worker, he said, did not design a show that matched the bid that Atlas had submitted.
“We often go off past performance,” Pelkey said. “They had loved our past display in Greenfield. In our haste, we provided basically the same show. In hindsight, it wasn’t to specifications of the bid.”
Pelkey said he has offered the town an 80 percent discount on the show, which would reduce the cost from $11,500 to $2,200. The fireworks display is paid for through donations, according to The Recorder, with the town paying for police and fire service.
Pelkey said he has not heard back from Greenfield officials yet.
According to the story in The Recorder, Greenfield Mayor William Martin has said he wants to complete an investigation into whether shortages occurred in previous years, before accepting the Atlas offer. Martin could not be reached for comment on Monday.
Pelkey said in South Hadley, Atlas had used a different type of shells than called for in its bid.
“We gave them a discount, and they seem to be satisfied,” Pelkey said.
According to the Recorder story, South Hadley Recreation Director Andrew Rogers said the show was a good one, but wasn’t what was promised. Rogers told the paper he thought this was the first year that there had been a discrepancy. The Ledger-Transcript was unable to reach Rogers for comment on Monday.
Atlas is the oldest fireworks company in New England and does many shows, including the Fourth of July celebration in Boston. For years, Atlas put on a major fireworks show every summer at the Silver Ranch Airpark in Jaffrey in conjunction with the Jaffrey Chamber of Commerce and the airpark. That display was canceled in 2012 when a bomb threat was received prior to the show, and was not held last year. This year, Atlas is sponsoring the show, now called the Monadnock Festival of Fireworks, at a different venue, the Cheshire Fairgrounds.
“It’s a completely secure facility and we can do online ticketing, so we can plan for public safety,” Pelkey said. “It will have the same feel and flair as a smaller location.”
Pelkey said the show will benefit a number of organizations, including the Jaffrey Chamber of Commerce, St. Patrick School in Jaffrey, the Jaffrey-Rindge Rotary Club, the Wounded Warrior project and youth football programs.
Cyndy Burgess, who is co-chair of the Monadnock Festival of Fireworks for the Jaffrey Chamber of Commerce, said Atlas is running the show, with the Chamber helping arrange for volunteers and coordinating vendors, in exchange for part of the proceeds. Burgess said on Monday that the Chamber had been doing the Silver Ranch shows with Atlas for 23 years and was never dissatisfied.
“We all felt that we were given, every year, a display that was phenomenal,” Burgess said. “It was always as promised. We never had any complaint; we never heard anyone who felt shorted. We’ve never been disappointed.”
Atlas also put on a fireworks display over the Fourth of July in Peterborough at ConVal High School for many years, until it was canceled due to ConVal School District officials concerns over impact on the playing fields. The shows were paid for by Petersons Real Estate and sponsored by the Greater Peterborough Chamber of Commerce, according to Jack Burnett, the former executive director of the Chamber of Commerce.
“I would say that in every single instance when Atlas did fireworks, they gave us far more than we paid for,” Burnett said on Monday. “During the financial downturn, they reached out to a number of their nonprofit clients to make it easier for us.”
Dave Anderson can be reached at 924-7172, ext. 233 or firstname.lastname@example.org. He’s on Twitter at @DaveAndersonMLT.