AUSTINTOWN Delay in fireworks prompts discussions

AUSTINTOWN -- The Fourth of July committee here is set to consider penalizing contractors for starting future holiday fireworks displays later than expected.
David Ditzler, a township trustee and the committee member responsible for organizing the fireworks display, said he thinks the committee, meeting Thursday, will discuss the creation of an agreement detailing the penalties. The company that sets off the display would have to sign the agreement.
Ditzler added the committee also may ask for a rebate from Colonial Fireworks in Michigan, which had agreed to a contract stating that this year's fireworks display would start at 10 p.m.
The display didn't begin until about 10:40 p.m. It was held at the Fitch High School stadium, and admission was free.
The committee, which is not connected to township government, had agreed to pay $7,000 for the display. Ditzler said $3,500 of the fee was paid to the company before the holiday. Money for the display was raised through the sale of advertisements in the township Fourth of July program.
Ditzler said the committee has hired Colonial Fireworks to set off the display during each of the past three years, and the display has not been late in the past.
Fire Chief Andrew Frost said a Colonial Fireworks employee had agreed to set off displays in Warren, Niles, Youngstown and Austintown by himself on the holiday. Frost said that at 10:10 p.m., the employee called the township's fire inspector and said he was still in Warren. He asked the fire inspector if his assistant could start the display.
Township officials, however, weren't sure if the assistant had a license to set off fireworks in Ohio. Frost said that if the assistant didn't have a license, the township could have been liable for damage or injuries caused by the fireworks. Licensed fireworks operators must have an insurance policy of $1 million to cover injuries and damage, Frost said.
Frost said he eventually spoke to the employee and told him that he had to come to Austintown to start the display. While the employee drove to Austintown, committee members announced to the crowd in the stadium that the display would be late. Trustee Bo Pritchard said the crowd began to get rowdy as it waited.
"We were asked to sacrifice about a half-hour of our time. We didn't do it with very much style," he said.
Township officials "didn't have control over when the licensed shooter arrived, as I explained to someone who was shouting at me in front of my 6-year-old daughter using some derogatory street language.
"I don't think anyone on that committee should have to apologize with all the time they put into the Fourth of July," Pritchard added.

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