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City waits to seal deal on anniversary fireworks

A motel owner wants the firm to make amends for the July 4 explosion.

By NICK JOHNSON, Times Staff Writer
Published August 19, 2007


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The St. Pete Beach City Commission decided to put off signing a contract for fireworks at the November anniversary celebration until property owners who suffered damage in the last display have their claims addressed.

City Manager Mike Bonfield went to the commission last week seeking authorization to enter into a contract with Bell's Fireworks for the anniversary display.

Bell's is the same company that provided the Fourth of July display that ended in an explosion, injuring a dozen people and damaging several properties.

If contracted for the anniversary display, Bell's would shoot the fireworks from a barge, which requires more time for permitting.

The Bon-Aire Resort Motel, owned by William Curotto, was one of the damaged properties in the Fourth of July blast and has not yet been compensated.

Curotto's attorney, Laurie McNamara, asked commissioners not to proceed with a contract until Bell's Fireworks or its provider, Crawford and Co., make it clear that they intend to take responsibility.

"I was promised that the insurance company was going to be contacting me at least to discuss this whole thing, and I haven't gotten a phone call," McNamara said.

Curotto is seeking compensation for more than 20 windows that were blown out by the explosion, costing him about $24,000. No contact has been made by Bell's or its provider since an appraiser came to the motel.

Because of the more extensive permitting process involved to shoot the fireworks from a barge, the delay in the contract could make it impossible for Bell's to be ready by Nov. 9.

"I don't really want to stop the fireworks at all. That's not it," Curotto said, adding he was merely looking for some responsibility on behalf of the fireworks company.

Bonfield said Bell's had agreed to go ahead with the permitting process without the contract in an attempt to make the deadline.

"Bell's assured us that they are talking to their insurance company and they're making it a priority and will do what they can as quick as they can. That's all that we can ask of them right now," Bonfield said.

The commission will take another look at the issue at the next meeting, but McNamara says she will file a lawsuit if Crawford and Co. doesn't at least provide a copy of the insurance policy this week.

Bell's has offered a $4,000 discount for the anniversary display and will also pay for the barge.

Cathy Grace, Curotto's daughter, who manages the motel, said they don't want to spoil the celebration for anyone else.

"I just think it's a little premature to grant a contract to this company when they haven't even stepped up to the plate," she said.

Nick Johnson can be reached at nickjohnson@sptimes.com or 893-8361.

[Last modified August 18, 2007, 22:22:21]


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