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Article updated: 2/12/2013 3:14 PM

Hoffman Estates closer to choosing fireworks provider

By Jessica Cilella

Despite one village trustee's push to re-examine four fireworks bids for this year's Northwest Fourth Fest, the village board's Finance Committee moved forward Monday with a plan to award the contract to the same firm that put on last year's often criticized show.

The contract, which will go to the village board for possible approval next week, would give the 30-minute show to Melrose Pyrotechnics, Inc. It will include a performance guarantee and insure that the village could revert to a $15,000 show if the other municipalities and township that help put on the fireworks last year don't contribute this year.

Melrose's show last year was called "less than optimal" by committee Chairman Gary Pilafas. Similar remarks about last year's show, which fell four minutes short of the scheduled 22 minutes, have been made by other village board members during three previous village panel discussions that took place earlier this month and at the end of last month.

Melrose submitted the lowest bid this year, 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 budgeted for the whole display.

The companies were given an opportunity to explain their bid to the committee Monday, although it quickly was concluded that the top two competitors were Melrose and Mad Bomber.

Andy James, president of Mad Bomber, tried to present a video of the company's fireworks -- which Trustee Ray Kincaid said he would like to see -- but Pilafas said the floor would not be given to video demonstrations.

"Somebody really wants us not to shoot these fireworks in Hoffman Estates," James said, interrupting Pilafas. "I think if people saw this they would see the difference."

James also expressed frustration about the references the village called, and with remarks by Trustee Karen Mills that the village had problems with Mad Bomber in the past.

"When I looked at the reference list I looked for ones that were local," said Deputy Village Manager Dan O'Malley. "I had no idea what the size of the shows were … the communities that were closest were Aurora, Highland Park, Glen Ellyn. Those were the references that were called."

Michael Cartolano, president of Melrose, explained in detail the human error that occurred during last year's show, which he admitted was lit too fast and not in sync with the music. He said this year's show would be computer-fired.

He also explained that while he normally "never takes money out of the marketplace," the company bid low because he knew they would have an uphill battle with the village this year, and he wanted to provide them with a $45,000 show for $39,000.

In response to questions about Melrose's shell count -- which was less than some of the other bids -- Cartolano said "you can't buy fireworks by numbers."

"We'll come here with the best of the best," he said.

Former Fourth of July Commission Chairman Daniel Callender said he thought the board should give Melrose another chance.

"Last year there was a glitch," he said. "We knew when we moved out to the Sears Centre we were going to have some glitches, and this was one of them. Was it unfortunate? Yes. But they have addressed it, they have owned up to it."

Trustee Jackie Green, the current Chairwoman of the Fourth of July Commission, added that the commission -- which recommended Melrose in the first place -- spent a lot of time meeting with each vendor and watching video footage of their shows late last year.

"We didn't make a fast decision on any of this," she said.

After more than 45 minutes of discussion, a 6-1 vote moved the issue back to the village board, where it was last week. Trustee Gary Stanton said he was "ambivalent," but voted yes. Kincaid, who had suggested the issue go back to the Fourth of July Commission for further consideration, voted no.

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