Official Statement From The ALSC Board

It is unfortunate that the other highly successful and very well attended events have been completely  overshadowed by the late start and shortcomings of our main event, the fireworks display. Among the successful 4th of July events include the Angle Lake Manor HOA Kiddies Parade; the Bud Jones Memorial 5K Walk / Run Around the Lake; the Swimming and Boating Races and the Home and Dock decorating competition.  

However, since the Fireworks Show did not live up to our high standards and expectations, the following communication has been distributed from the ALSC Board and contains information regarding last years show and is intended to provide our readers with an explanation of what had transpired. And while it does not yet include information regarding our future plans, please know that the ALSC Board will be meeting later this month to discuss the event in detail, review fully the issues and allow an opportunity to brainstorm ways to avoid future occurrences in an effort to bring the quality of our fireworks show back to former high standards that we've become accustomed to, of which Eagle Fireworks will no longer be a part of any future plans. Those future plans and solutions will be communicated through the normal ALSC communication channels once they are final.  


On behalf of the Angle Lake Shore Club board we want to apologize to our members for the late start to this year’s fireworks show and for the show in general, but at the same time are grateful that no one was injured.

As you are all now aware, or at least should be, Eagle Fireworks has been the fireworks contractor the club has used for the past 6 years since I became your president and for many years prior to that.  In fact I am not aware of us every having used another contractor. Last year we had a problem with the duration of the show and after much discussion and deliberation we as a board elected to give them a second chance to redeem themselves. We made this decision for the following two reasons:
  1. Eagle Fireworks track record was not that bad and with personal assurances from the Owner, Steve Thornton, we felt comfortable in allowing him to deliver us “THE SHOW OF ALL SHOWS”  as he put it, to make up for the previous year.  He personally took full responsibility for the problems with last year’s show. 
  2. After going out to 6 bidders Eagle Fireworks and two other bidders came back with the most competitive bid.  The bids ranged from a low of $18,000 up to $28,800, however only Eagle fireworks had included the temporary barge on which the show is staged.  All others excluded the temporary raft.  NOTE:  Only one other contractor gave us an add to include a raft which would have required the club to committing to a 10 year contract and a raft cost of about $30,000 amortized over the 10 year period.
From a financial aspect, last year we ultimately paid the contractor $9,000 against an $18,000 contract of which the City contributed $5,000 and we paid the $4,000 balance along with all other costs including lake flares required to put on the show.

In an effort to emphasis the problems we encountered last year we modified the Eagle Firework’s contract by adding an exhibit that addressed specific performance dates, timelines and achievements each with specific liquidated damages (LD) that would be assessed in the event the contractor failed to meet any of these requirements.  I think what transpired can best be described by examining these performance dates and how the contractor responded to them.
  1. Permit application by 6/21/13 did not occur until 6/30/13 (need to verify this with fire marshal). LD of $250 /calendar day until complete not to exceed $3,000.
  2. Steel barge delivery by 6/29/13 did not occur until 7/4/13. LD of $500 /calendar day until complete not to exceed $2,000
  3. Raft component delivery by 6/29/13 did not occur until 7/4/13. LD of $500 /calendar day until complete not to exceed $2,000
  4. Barge assembly complete and ready to tow and Fire Marshal approval no later than 4:00 pm on 7/04/13 did not occur until 9:45 pm. LD of $1,000
  5. Start of show by 10:00 pm did not occur until 11:00 pm. LD of $1,000
  6. Providing 6 mini finales during show did not occur. LD of $1,000
  7. Final cleanup by 7/12/13 still pending. LD of $500 /calendar day until complete not to exceed $2,000

When the deadline of 6/21/13 came and there was no application I began to worry a bit.  Then the day of 6/29/13 came and went and I began to worry more.  By the evening of 7/03/13 it was like déjà vu all over again.  And what kind of effort was I making to avoid a repeat of last year?  I called Eagle Fireworks no less than 150 times in the month of June up until the 4th trying to keep abreast of what was happening.  Most calls were met with no answers, busy signals or people answering that had no idea what was happening.  From approximately one week prior to the 4th I found out my contact and the owner of Eagle Fireworks, Steve Thornton, had departed for Wyoming on a trek to buy more fireworks and was unavailable due to the fact he has no cell phone.  In fact the whole operation is basically only reachable by his land line in Chehalis WA as they apparently have no cell reception where they are located and he doesn't believe in e-mail correspondence either.  Needless to say, while I knew going in to this relationship it would take a lot of my time trying to communicate with Eagle Fireworks, I had no idea it would turn so futile.  I was having to call his 90 year old parents in the hopes of getting some type of answers only to find myself worrying that I’d give them a heart attack if I pressed them to hard on getting their son to contact me.

So we get to the question of why did the show start so late and for that answer I can only provide you with the following observations and impressions I come away with after dealing with this Eagle Fireworks for the past 6 years and specifically in preparations for this show.
  1. Steve Thornton is a terrible businessman and is trying to run his company like they did 40 years ago and is simply unable to keep up with all the current rules, regulations and current business practices that are needed these days for a business to thrive.  Example: no cell phones, no internet and basically poor communication skills. 
  2. Poor to no communications skills and unfortunately Steve, the owner, seems to be at the center of the communications problem.  His crew never seemed to know what was going on or when supplies would be delivered.  Steve would commit to times things would happen and never once did they occur at those times promised and never once would he call me to inform me about changes or deviations.  It was always me chasing him down to get reassurances or answers.
  3. His equipment is old and antiquated and while it served him well at one time it is now in a state of disrepair.  Example:  Trucks breaking down, trucks with substandard brakes, and a steel barge that is in disrepair.
  4. Lack of leadership with his pyro technicians.  There never seemed to be anyone in charge of what was going on at the staging areas and any questions we would ask seemed to go on deaf ears.  It was like we didn't even exist.  At one point on the day of the 4th the guy that was in charge told me that he was ready to just give up due to the lack of support by his boss.
  5. They don’t seem to learn from past mistakes.  When asked at 9:30 if they were ready to be towed and if they had all the ropes and anchors ready we got a half hearted nod.  I reminded them of the problems last year with the lengths of rope only being 15’ -20’ long and not reaching the lake bottom.  Once out on the water with the raft in place we were faced with the same problem and were scurrying to find ropes and put our people on the raft to secure the anchors while we tried to stabilize the raft in the wind and hold it in place.  
  6. The shells always seem to be delivered at the last minute and this 4th was no exception.  All this does is lead to frustration and mistakes.
I could probably go on and on about the negative aspects of what happened and would love to add some positive comments but I am challenged to find any in regard to the preparation for this year’s show, although I will say the that the spontaneous call to action from several shore club members who converge on the staging site the night before to pitch in to help unload the barge and platform materials was a phenomenal effort to ensure that the platforms were ready in time and that the shells that did go off the night of the 4th were quite impressive and finally, the fact that we got something off late was better than nothing at all.  However the biggest impact this year was the late start coupled with it being a work day the next day for most and a large number of people who left early and had gone home without witnessing any part of the show and for that we can only apologize so many times.  We really had little to no control over what happened.
Once the show was started the displays were quite nice until a little over half way through an 8” shell inadvertently exploded just as it left the mortar throwing one technician into the water.  This interrupted the show until injury and damage assessments could be made.   Fortunately there were no injuries however the incident did adversely affect the remainder of the show.  The on board crew then proceeded to sporadically fire off the remaining shells they deemed to be safe.
From this experience we have learned that communication is paramount in putting on a show of this nature.  In retrospect we needed to find a way to communicate to all spectators that the show was still going to proceed despite it being late.

Rest assured that we will continue to learn from our past experiences and will make all necessary adjustments in our means and methods to give our community the best product possible.  We are always looking for new volunteers who are interested in helping us in this and other worthwhile community endeavors.  If you are critical of how things are being run and think you can build a better mousetrap we encourage you to get involved as a volunteer and would be pleased to have you on board. 

Lonnie Goulet, President and the serving members of the Angle Lake Shore Club Board


Where are Deb and Tony Now? said...

Thanks Lonnie,
This must have been your personal nightmare. I really appreciate all the information, it will help to have some talking points around here.
Thanks for all you do,
Deb Anderson

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the update!

Unknown said...

Lonnie, while the fireworks were disappointing, we thought the ones that were shot off were beautiful - maybe even prettier than those shot off over Lake Union that we saw on TV. I understand your frustration and that you did the best you could for us. We hope a more reliable company can be found to do future shows. We appreciate all that you do on behalf of the Angle Lake community.
Carolyn Tomlinson and Edie Forey, Post 23

Anonymous said...

An open message to the officers of the Angle Lake Shore Club and Angle Lake Manor, please forward as you see fit:

First and foremost, you have my full support in all regards, and I thank you for your service to our community. I know from personal experience that the effort required to fulfill your duties is high, the rewards are few and far between, and second guessing can be fast and furious. As a member of the ALSC, I commit to vote for each and every one of you if you choose to make yourselves available again to serve our community.

With respect to the fireworks, I also support your decision to give Eagle Fireworks a second chance this year, for the following reasons, which were spelled out in your note:
1. Eagle Fireworks’ previous history with Angle Lake was positive and their prices were competitive

2. Based on #1, it was indeed reasonable to give Eagle Fireworks a second chance

3. It was just plain good business to incorporate performance penalties in the contract – ESPECIALLY in hindsight

4. The lack of an acceptable platform for major fireworks weakened our negotiating position and offered competitors an opportunity to take advantage of that weakness

Now is the time for the community to rally in your support, pull together and find solutions to our short-term problem of finding a new provider and the long-term weakness of potentially being held hostage by the lack of an acceptable platform for the “big guns”; the 6” and 8” mortars. In that regard I offer the following thoughts:
1. IF the money saved from penalties can be rolled over into 2014, that we consider using it for our own platform or at least for one HELLUVA show!

2. For the long term: If we can find a way to purchase, maintain and store our own 20-year platform, I pledge $500 to that effort and hope my neighbors will contribute in kind, as able

3. For the short term: I have a seriously overbuilt 16x16 ft dock that I designed to be detachable, and have indeed used it as a work barge here on the lake. If it can be modified to act as an interim fireworks platform, I offer it for next year’s fireworks

To all my fellow ALSC members, and the few ALM members whose e-mails I have (BCC), we are presented with an opportunity to pull together and find a long-term solution to the issues that made us vulnerable to Eagle Fireworks’ poor performance. The last two years may be considered a petri dish that magnified all the challenges our ALSC and ALM Boards have certainly struggled with over the years. We can now clearly see what’s wrong and pull together for a solution that will put us in a position of strength as a customer, significantly increasing the probability of finding competitive, competent fireworks contractors for many years to come.

Let’s fix this thing.

Mike Borfitz DER
Borfitz Aero Solutions
Seattle WA

TaniRae said...

Thank you Lonnie for the detailed reply which must have taken even more of your time that you so generously devote to making this the most fun and connected community I have ever known.
Thank you to the people who commented here as supportive of our volunteer efforts to pull off a fantastic fourth.

There were some great shells I had not seen the likes of before. True, I watched them without our guests but they were cool with it. Maybe we are just so fun the fireworks didn't matter ;)

But actually the story of the boards efforts to work with the contractor to redeem himself was more entertaining than any fireworks and it had our guests applauding the efforts of an all volunteer board who puts in hundreds of hours, expertise, learning as we go, as well as our own money toward the full day of July 4th activities PLUS a full year of even more fun events.

I know some people felt they should not have to pay their usual contribution as they were upset about the show, but I see it differently.

To me the monetary contribution is what we ask each other to pay to be a part of a community that is amazing enough to work together, volunteer and make things happen. A community that people in other cities only see in their dreams or on old black and white reruns of the Andy Griffith show.

Some years the contribution is a major bargain, some years not so much (something about chaos theory explains it). But just think how wonderful it is that most people only have to contribute cash and not hundreds of hours, as you did, Lonnie; Hours that regardless of the outcome will not be repaid or compensated or rewarded and may even be (God forbid) criticized.

We enjoy this community together, we should share the joy of good times and share the risk of the problems together.

Understanding does shed light and helps to turn around criticism, but should you still encounter any after your transparent explanation, I volunteer to personally go visit them and sing your praises. That should quell all dissent!

Andrew Flanders said...

We always contribute more for the fireworks than the exceptionally reasonable requested amount because the show is worth so much more to us and our guests. We'd be happy to contribute to an ALSC owned barge, especially if it could possibly be used for other activities in addition to launching fireworks. Is that a possibility?

Thanks a lot!

Angle Lake Shore Club Blog said...

One idea being tossed around is to leave the barge anchored at the center of the 'L' so that it may be used as a swim platform (much like Lake Burien has) and/or could be something for the pontoon boats to tie up to for the 'Heads & Tails Friday Night Socials' during the summer... but this would need to be researched first before anything can be determined.

Andrew Flanders said...

That sounds great. It would also be nice to have another public destination on the lake in addition to the park. I'm curious to know how much a platform would cost. I had a good experience with having a dock built through Waterfront Construction. The price was reasonable considering the nice job they did.