Neighbors say Atlas and its owner ‘kind and generous’
GREENFIELD — While the mayor waits for word from the town’s lawyer about whether he thinks a New Hampshire company short-changed Greenfield’s fireworks display this year — an=d possibly for the past three or four years — neighbors of Atlas PyroVision Productions Inc. in Jaffrey, N.H., and its owner Stephen Pelkey are shocked that such a “kind and generous” person and business would be accused of such a thing.
Cyndy Burgess, who works for the Jaffrey, N.H., Chamber of Commerce and co-chairs the Monadnock Festival of Fireworks — which Atlas will provide at a discount this summer at Cheshire Fairgrounds — said the chamber has had a “fabulous” relationship with Pelkey and Atlas for the past 23 years.
The festival is being billed by organizers as the “largest pyro-musical festival in New England.”
“Steve has never let us down,” said Burgess. “We’ve never felt we were taken advantage of. We couldn’t ask for anyone better to work with than Steve and Atlas.”
Burgess said the chamber intends to continue working with Atlas and Pelkey in the future.
“We are all grateful for his kindness,” she said. “I know he’s been known in Jaffrey as a kind and generous person since at least 1985.”
It isn’t clear how long Pelkey has owned Atlas.
Burgess said she believes he grew up in the Jaffrey area, if not in Jaffrey proper.
Jori Johnson, general manager of the Cheshire Fair in Swanzey, N.H., said she and others at the fairground have been working with Pelkey for months to plan the festival, as well as the display he has donated for opening day of the Cheshire Fair this year.
“He is nothing but professional,” said Johnson. “He donates so much to his community — festivals, high schools.”
Johnson said Atlas is paying a substantial grounds fee to hold the Monadnock Festival of Fireworks this year.
“He knows we’re a nonprofit, so not only is he paying that fee to put on the festival, but he is then giving us a booth for free so we can make more money during the festival and he got us a VIP table to watch the fireworks,” said Johnson.
Burgess and Johnson both said they can’t imagine Pelkey being anything but honest and forthcoming.
Nonetheless, Pelkey could still not be reached by The Recorder for comment on Monday or Tuesday. On July 16, Mayor William Martin had announced that the town may not have been getting the biggest bang for its buck when it came to its annual Fourth of July fireworks display this year, last year, and possibly the two years before.
Martin said the town is currently investigating Atlas and expects to hear from its lawyer today.
Atlas has been providing the town its annual fireworks display for the past 20 years, it appears, and it doesn’t seem there were many complaints before this one.
Martin said that because of the problem, the town withheld payment for this year’s display. It paid a $2,500 deposit for an $11,500 display, but that’s it to this point.
Pelkey, who acknowledged “a mistake” in the packing for the display this year, and who agreed that Greenfield was provided fewer shells than it was promised, has offered the town an 80 percent discount. That would mean the town would pay $2,200 for an $11,500 display, but Martin has so far said he won’t accept any offer until he hears from the town’s lawyer.
The mayor said he would expect more than that if the town finds Atlas has short-changed it over the past four years.
Pelkey said last week that over the years there have been subtle changes from time to time, but contended that the town has always received a display of equal or greater value from Atlas.
Documents provided The Recorder and the town appear to show that between 2011 and 2014, Greenfield 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.
For instance, this year Atlas contracted with the town to shoot 1,360 shells during the fireworks display on July 5 at Beacon Field, but only shot 672.
Two other towns, South Hadley and South Kingstown, R.I., also investigated Atlas this year because they said they were short-changed, but South Hadley settled for a discount and said that it was happy with its fireworks display, even though it wasn’t quite as promised.
This week, Pelkey told a reporter for a New Hampshire newspaper that 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 town’s materials this year.
He said that worker did not design a show that matched the bid that Atlas had submitted.
“We often go off past performance,” Pelkey told the Monadnock Ledger-Transcript of Peterborough.
“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.”
In past years, residents have raved about Greenfield’s display, but this year many voiced disappointment, saying it was nowhere near as spectacular as they were used to.
Greenfield’s fireworks are paid for with donations, so it does not cost taxpayers, except for police and fire service.
Atlas is the oldest fireworks company in New England and does many shows each year, including the Fourth of July celebration in Boston.
For many years it has run the Monadnock Festival of Fireworks, but didn’t hold it the last couple of years because in 2012 it had to cancel because of a bomb threat that was received prior to the show.
This year, the festival will be held at the Cheshire Fairgrounds. The event 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 teams.
Atlas also provides many smaller displays annually for free to local charities.