Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966

Borough rescues fireworks display


The annual Fourth of July fireworks display is back on schedule.

The Haines Borough recently agreed to pay for insurance coverage for the event, following a decision by the Haines Chamber of Commerce to no longer sponsor it.

A $5 million policy purchased through Fire Art by Griz, the fireworks supplier for pyrotechnician Phil Wilde, costs $1,500, said owner Griz Smith of Big Lake.

“This provides for the insurance to the level that our carrier is comfortable with,” said borough manager Mark Earnest.

The borough previously gave money to the chamber for fireworks, which were covered by the chamber’s insurance policy that is limited to $1 million.

The display had been in limbo since March, when Ned Rozbicki, chamber president, asked the borough assembly to take on the insurance liability. The assembly in a 4-1 vote denied the request, on the recommendation of the borough’s insurance agent.

Rozbicki, an insurance broker, said the display was “underinsured” and the community would be better served if the fireworks were covered under the borough’s $10 million policy.

Earnest wrote a fireworks update in a report for the assembly last week and said the 2012 display would cost $8,300, including “the appropriate insurance coverage.”

“The chamber is thrilled to see it go forward,” Rozbicki said.

Earnest said Holland America would donate $2,000 for the fireworks, and the borough is seeking a donation from Lynden Transport for shipping, valued at $2,800. The donations put the borough’s cost in line with last year’s $3,500 appropriation to the chamber for the show.

“I would like to take this opportunity to express my appreciation to Mr. Wilde for his willingness to serve the community for this important celebration of our nation’s history,” Earnest wrote. “As he has done in the past, he is donating his time and labor for the good of the community.”

Wilde has coordinated the Haines display for more than a decade, often as part of an eight-member crew of family and friends.

“I also do fireworks shows for birthday parties, marriages, divorces, funerals,” Wilde said. “The city show of Haines is not a moneymaking venture.”

The borough’s Tourism Advisory Board in April wrote a letter to assembly members asking them to reconsider their decision not to take on the insurance liability.

“This important event displays the patriotism of our community and is a highlight for locals and visitors,” chair Michael Ahmuty wrote on behalf of the committee.

Tourism director Tanya Carlson sought sponsors for the fireworks.

“We definitely couldn’t let there not be a show, so after our last TAB meeting, we decided to jump on it and see what we could do to fix the problem,” Carlson said.

She noted the 1,440-passenger Zaandam, a Holland America ship, is scheduled to be in port on the Fourth of July and might extend its stay so visitors can see the show over Lynn Canal.

“Whether it’s visitors or community members, I think fireworks are an important part to all festivities for the Fourth of July,” Carlson said. “It’s part of what Fourth of July is all about, with patriotism, and it’s kind of the finale to the whole day, so I think it’s important no matter where you go in America.”


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