No money, but green light to decorations

There’s no telling yet if it will be a white Christmas, but it could be a bright one.

Cost concerns kept the lights off when it came to holiday decorations in downtown Warren last year.

Warren City Council opted not to fund repairs to existing decorations or the purchase of new decorations and brackets to mount them on the new light poles for 2012.

Currently, the city has the snowflakes that have been used in years past, but they don’t fit on the new poles and concerns over scratching kept them from being hung last year. Additionally, the snowflakes are between 15 and 20 years old.

In an effort to provide some form of decoration, Dan Ristau organized business owners to make wreaths and bows which were hung downtown, but the decorations were only good for one year.

This year, city council member Jim Zavinski and a group of business owners and residents have put a decorated downtown on their Christmas wish list, but the city has no money budgeted for decorating.

“We’re going to give it a good shot and hopefully get something up for Christmas this year,” Zavinski said. “We do have the snowflakes.”

Zavinski noted new decorations would cost between $400 and $500, while refurbishing the existing snowflakes would be substantially cheaper. Either way, brackets to hang the decorations would be needed.

“The biggest expense is going to be the bulbs and brackets,” Zavinski said.

While sunny summer temperatures may make the holiday season appear a distant concern, from a planning standpoint decorating is just around the corner. As a result, the decorations were up for discussion during Monday evening’s city council work session.

Director of Public Works Mike Holtz explained to council the new poles have plates that allows mounting of a bracket and poles for decorations, but that the cost per brackets is more than $100. Each pole would need two brackets.

“Years ago, the chamber of commerce went to all the businesses in town and put up snowflakes all the way down Pennsylvania Avenue,” Council Vice President Maurice Cashman recalled.

At the time, the city did not own the poles. The chamber of commerce provided decorations, the pole owner allowed hanging them and a local electrician volunteered the time to hang them.

Zavinski told council his group would like to hang the snowflakes across the Hickory Street Bridge and in the downtown commercial district up to Second Avenue.

“The merchants do feel we need to put something up,” Zavinski said. “We’re looking at the snowflakes that we have. About the only cost will be painting and lights.”

“I think the only cost (to the city) should be volunteering the time to put them up,” Council member Sam Harvey said. “We should spend no public money on this.”

Council member John Lewis suggested wrapping lights around the poles rather than hanging decorations as an inexpensive alternative. Lewis also noted it would avoid liability issues should one of the decorations, which weigh approximately 30 to 40 pounds, fall.

Council agreed the city would give its blessing to Zavinski and his group if they raised the money to decorate, but would not fund the venture.

Plans for decorations may take advantage of older poles on Pennsylvania Avenue beyond Market Street as well.

“Some of the old poles have brackets and we’re going down tomorrow to look at that,” Zavinski said in a follow-up call. “We may put some down through there. This is August already, so by the time you order things, it’s not that far away.”