Fireworks show contract fizzles

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By James Fujita

Gardena officials are looking into options for celebrating the Fourth of July.

On Feb. 25, the city council rejected two fireworks show proposals. Councilmembers said that they were concerned about high prices, getting locked into a long-term contract and complaints about previous shows.

Mayor Tasha Cerda described the previous two shows as “embarrassing” and “ridiculous.”

“And this is no reflection on our staff; this is the company,” she said. “And the year before that it was even worse. I mean, the show just stopped 15 minutes in. First, I think it started 15 minutes late. Fifteen or 20 minutes in, it stopped. The lights came on, and then they started back up again. It was terrible. I mean, the whole experience was really bad.”

City Manager Clint Osorio said that the company which did last year’s fireworks show was not the same company that the city was considering for this year.  Recreation and Human Services Director Stephany Santin said that Pyro Spectaculars had done the city’s fireworks show for about 16 or 17 years before being replaced.

“The company that we are trying to contract with, that is the company that we used to use, which we didn’t have any issues with,” Santin said. “They would put on a good show. What happened was, I think it was two years ago, we decided to try something new. And I think it backfired on us.”

Santin said that it is difficult to find a fireworks company to do a show on the Fourth of July, which is typically the busiest time of year for fireworks.

“We were not happy with that company,” she said. “But they were the only ones who were available on July 4th. So other cities have decided to do July 3rd or July 5th, but it all depends on if we want to keep the July 4th date.  Then we are limited on the vendors that we can use.”

Councilmembers also questioned the price of the fireworks shows. Osorio said that last year’s show would have cost $25,000 to $26,000.

“It’s my understanding that last year with the cost of the fireworks show, we did not pay for that show,” he said. “Now, as far as the Pyro company, you can lock in three years, but you’re not locked in so that you can’t cancel the contract. After the first year, if you’re not satisfied, obviously you can cancel that. If there’s a malfunction or the show is not as advertised, then we can specify in the contract that there will be repayment back of certain funds.”

According to staff reports, Pyro Spectaculars offered the city two options — a one-year contract for $35,000; or a three-year contract with a discount for this year. The first year would be $29,999, but the next two years (2021 and 2022) would be $35,000.

“But we’re going up with the prices for 18-20 minutes — $35,000 versus $25,000,” Councilman Art Kaskanian said. “It was more than 20 minutes, or it was supposed to be. So, I don’t know. I’m not in favor. I’m sorry, I don’t want to spend, to waste, to burn the money up in the sky.”

Cerda said that she still wants Gardena to have a fireworks show.

“We’re kind of known in Gardena for having this fireworks show,” she said. “It’s a big deal that happens every year … I am very much not comfortable with going with three years, but I think maybe one of these companies may be open to saying one year because of our bad experience we’ve had, and give us a decent price and we will feel more comfortable with it.”

Santin said that fireworks shows could cost up to $60,000-$70,000, and that Gardena’s show was a relatively small show.

Kaskanian suggested that Gardena could save money by having food trucks or other vendors pay the city to sell stuff on the Fourth of July. Henderson said that the city could expand the fireworks show into a two-day event.

“July 4th is a Saturday this year, and Friday is a holiday,” Henderson said. “It won’t offset all of the costs, but if we turned it into a thing; we love doing festivals, the overtime and all that.  We’d have the two-day shot — a window of having something on Friday, a festival all-day or something, and something on the Fourth of July and a fireworks show.”

After council discussion was over, Cerda made a motion for the one-year fireworks show contract, but received no second. The council voted 3-2 to reject the three-year option, with Cerda and Henderson voting in favor. 

The council asked city staff to return later with more options for the Fourth of July.

According to Wikipedia, Pyro Spectaculars has provided fireworks for the 1996 and 2004 Olympics and Disneyland.