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Article posted: 2/5/2013 5:00 AM

Northwest Fourth Fest fireworks still up in the air

By Jessica Cilella

Despite a second discussion Monday, the Hoffman Estates village board couldn't decide which company to hire for this year's Northwest Fourth Fest fireworks show.

The board was asked to award a $39,000 contract to Melrose Pyrotechnics Inc. for a 30-minute fireworks show at the festival, which will take place in July for a second year at the Sears Centre Arena.

But too many unanswered questions resulted in the matter being sent back to the committee level. A third discussion on the topic will take place during a special finance committee meeting at 7 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 11 in the village hall council chambers.

The village received four bids for the fireworks show. Melrose, which put on last year's show, submitted the lowest bid, at $39,000. The three other companies -- Mad Bomber Fireworks Productions, New Horizon Pyrotechnics Inc. and Addy Pyrotechnics -- submitted bids at $45,000, which is the amount that the village budgeted for the display.

Wynn Cramer, event producer for Melrose, said last year's fireworks show was only 18 minutes long, instead of the planned 22 minutes, because of a human error.

"When you're doing a (show set to music), the guy actually firing the shell is listening to cues over a headset," he said. "For some inexplicable reason he started shooting faster, and not listening to the cues."

Trustee Karen Mills said last year's problem "really left a bad taste in everyone's mouth."

"I think that's something everybody wants to avoid again," she said.

Cramer said if Melrose is awarded the contract this year it would use computer firing to eliminate errors.

Mayor William McLeod asked if Melrose has used the computer system at other shows. Cramer said it does every week for a 10-minute show at Navy Pier.

"Last year ... was a bad year to have a subpar performance," McLeod said. "I don't know why, if the computer-generated (fireworks) precludes human error, then why didn't you do that?" Cramer said because Melrose has only a few of the computer systems, the firm continues to do most shows by hand.

"For the most part, it works," he said.

Trustee Gary Stanton also asked about the different shells, as more than half of New Horizon's show includes the use of 4- to 6-inch shells, while the bulk of Melrose's show is 2.5- to 3-inch shells.

"To me that seems like a bigger bang for the buck than what you're giving us, is that right?" he said.

Cramer said not necessarily, depending on the quality or duration of the shells.

Mad Bomber President Andy James also spoke briefly. He said the only two players in the bid are Mad Bomber and Melrose, and he thinks the board should check the references for the other companies.

"Clearly they've had their chance at bat," he added about Melrose. "I don't care if someone's hit 500 home runs. You only care about what they're going to do when they get up to bat ... and you need them."

The Northwest Fourth Fest was put on last year with help from Elgin, Hanover Park and Hanover Township. Together they contributed about $30,000 to the fireworks. The amount they will contribute this year is still undetermined.

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