by Stacy Wiedmaier
The city’s annual Christmas on the River celebration may not be scheduled until Nov. 30, but Christmas lights and their maintenance were bright topics at a meeting of the Parkville Board of Aldermen Tuesday night.
Mayor Kathy Dusenbery said she has no problem with the downtown Christmas lights staying lit year round like many merchants requested, but the confusion is who is responsible for maintaining the bulbs and whether they are up to code or a fire hazard.
According to community development director Sean Ackerson, the city spent $13,000 in 2005 to purchase three new meters downtown. It was agreed the individual merchants would pay the electric cost of lighting their own buildings, while the city would foot the bill for areas they lit, including the Farmer’s Market pavilion, shelters in English Landing Park, the train depot and Pocket Park on Main Street.
Ackerson said city staff has discussed the lighting issues with members of the Main Street Association and certain problems must be addressed.
“These strings of bulbs do not come anywhere near meeting the code,” said Ackerson. “The city has hired electricians in the past to rewire the previous old and unprofessionally put together exposed connections. We need to look at updating this lighting system.”
Ackerson noted there is a difference between Christmas lighting placed atop downtown building facades which is meant to stay up for only a few months, and the outline lighting owners use to bring attention and charm to their shops that stay up for 12 months in all weather.
“Christmas lighting has a short life span, you’ll get around five years of use before you need to replace them,” he said. “Regular bulbs offer 3,000 hours of use before they burn out, while the newer and energy efficient plastic LED bulbs last 80,000 hours and use 10 to 20 percent less energy.”
He said Angelo Gangai, who operates The Power Plant Brewery, advised him the average length to outline each downtown shop with bulbs is close to 300 feet. If the city were to order lighted LED bulbs for both themselves and merchants, the length needed would be between 3,000 and 5,000 feet.
Constructing the lighting on these buildings is done by volunteers each year, and Dusenbery suggested the possible need for a lighting committee to take shape before the holidays approach.
“We could possibly set up a maintenance system where our downtown is broken into three sections that are each restrung with bulbs every five years on a rotating basis,” Ackerson suggested. “And by purchasing the LED bulbs, it will save on maintenance costs and electric bills. We have a couple of options before us; it’s just a matter of taking the time to meet with the Main Street Association to find a solution.”
Other news at the meeting included Alderman Marc Sportsman encouraging everyone watching the meeting at home on Channel 2, which is now aired live, to complete their survey mailed to them last Wednesday in order to provide city staff with feedback on Channel 2 and the city’s Website which is under construction. There were 1,900 mailings sent across town to residents and Sportsman said he hopes to receive around 10 percent of them completed.
Also during committee reports, alderman Gia McFarlane informed the board Saturday, Oct. 13 will be the last day the Farmer’s Market will be open for business. In a new development, the mayor said a local Boy Scout Troop will be selling Christmas trees at the same site under the pavilion when the weather grows colder.