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Greenfield waits to hear from lawyer about possible fireworks short-change

GREENFIELD — The town will have to wait a few more days for a lawyer’s opinion on whether a New Hampshire company has been short-changing the town’s annual fireworks display for the last four years.

Mayor William Martin said it will most likely be early next week before he hears from the town’s lawyer, Gordon Quinn of Sullivan, Hayes and Quinn law firm in Springfield.

“We’ll just be patient and wait until the investigation is complete,” said Martin.

Martin launched an audit of the paperwork involved earlier this month after getting information that indicated the town received about half of what it had contracted with Atlas PyroVision Productions Inc. of Jaffrey, N.H.

Going back through contracts and shooting schedules dating back to 2011, the town learned that it appears it was short-changed by as much as one-third, or more, of the shells it had paid for.

In the meantime, questions keep coming up about who was responsible for any short-changing and who in town was responsible for counting shells to make sure it was getting what it was supposed to each year.

Greenfield Fire Chief Robert Strahan said his department is responsible for making sure that the number of shells the town receives is the number reflected on the bill of lading that accompanies the shipment.

“That hasn’t been an issue,” said Strahan. “When we do our inspection as the fireworks arrive, we check the inventory coming off the truck to make sure it matches the shipping sheet. That has been fine.”

Strahan said how much the town contracts for with Atlas PryroVision Productions Inc. of Jaffrey, N.H. — the company that has provided the town Fourth of July fireworks for the past 20 years or more — and what appears on the bill of lading could potentially be two different numbers, but it wouldn’t be the Fire Department that would catch such an error.

“We never see the contract that shows what the town purchased,” he said.

Greenfield Recreation Director Christy Moore said last week that the town should have looked more closely and compared all documentation, but Atlas had been doing the fireworks for so long that the town became lax and simply checked the bill of lading to the shipment each year.

For instance, it appears that this year Atlas contracted with the town to shoot 1,360 shells during the fireworks display on July 5 at Beacon Field, but actually only shot 672. During its inspection, the Fire Department compared the bill of lading with its shell count and found no problem.

Atlas owner and Chief Executive Officer Stephen Pelkey has not made himself available for comment since the middle of the month — when he acknowledged the difference.

At that time, Pelkey offered the town an 80 percent discount, which means it would have cost the town $2,200, instead of $11,200, or this year’s display. But Martin says he doesn’t want to accept any agreements until he hears from the town’s lawyer.

On July 16, Russ Benjamin of Northampton, who worked for Atlas for 12 years and then left to work for its competitor Pyrotechnico, said Atlas had been “blowing everyone out of the water with their proposals by 500 to 600 shells,” by giving better deals.

“This is their business plan throughout the northeast,” charged Benjamin. “In the past four to five years, it’s getting worse and worse.”

Since then, Pelkey told 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 materials. That worker, he contends, did not design a show that matched the bid that Atlas had submitted.

It was not clear whether he was talking about Benjamin — who could not be reached for comment on Friday.

This weekend, Yankee Doodle Days is being held at the Charlemont Fairgrounds and Atlas was scheduled to provide a fireworks display on opening night Friday.

Organizers said earlier in the week that, as a result of The Recorder stories about Atlas, they would be a little more diligent about making sure they got what was paid for.

This is the third year Atlas has provided fireworks for Yankee Doodle Days — and one of the organizers said there haven’t been any problems with the company.

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