In mid-February, workers will begin removing the holiday lights in downtown Royal Oak, according to Tim Thwing, planning director and executive director for the Downtown Development Authority (DDA). In the meantime, the DDA is looking at decoration plans for the 2012-13 holiday season and hoping the future is brighter.
For the past few years, Royal Oak's holiday light display has left many city officials seeing red. “It has just been one disappointment after another,” said William Harrison, vice chairperson of the DDA, at a City Commission meeting in November.
The history of letdowns and expenditures includes:
- In 2010, the DDA approved Winterland, Inc. to string lights for the first time under a $38,165-a-year contract with the city. included tree trunks not wrapped correctly, canopies of lights not of the correct density and too many strands that did not work.
- In February 2011, after being dissatisfied with Winterland, the to install and take down the lights.
- In August, the DDA approved a proposal submitted by Worry-Free Inc. to remove the holiday lights from downtown tree trunks at a cost not to exceed $9,000.
- In September, the DDA entered into a contract for $19,611.50 with English Gardens to install the DDA’s inventory of lights in the fall of 2011 and remove them in the spring of 2012.
- In November, Harrison asked commissioners to approve a proposal, not to exceed $60,000, for lights for Fifth and Sixth Streets and Washington Avenue from Fifth Street to Seventh Street. The additional money was needed after workers from English Gardens, which began , ran out of lights after stringing lights too densely on Main Street.
- DDA board members discussed the issue at their Dec. 21 meeting and decided to make a more in-depth discussion of the lights part of an upcoming study session. “We seem to have an insatiable ability to screw up on these holiday lights in the past three years,” said Harrison. DDA member Luigi Cutraro added, “There’s never been a year that we don’t screw up (the holiday lights).”
The DDA will have in-depth discussions of holiday lights as part of its 2012 strategic planning sessions, which began Jan. 18 and will continue in February.
DDA chairperson James Domanski said he believes the holiday light plan comes down to money and that Royal Oak is trying to cover a much bigger area than some other communities.
“We are trying to put more lights in a bigger area than anybody else is that I know of. Rochester does (lights) on one street, but we're trying to do it on many streets,” he said, referring to the densely lit buildings in downtown Rochester.
Some members believe the decorations should focus on Main Street.
“On the main artery, what we used to call the gateway of Royal Oak, it looks terrible,” Cutraro said of this year's display. “I understand there was a mistake. That was a terrible mistake.” Cutraro said he wants more lights to be directed to Main Street.
Also up for debate is the type of display to be used during the 2012-13 holiday season.
City Manager Don Johnson questioned wrapping trees with lights. Johnson said tree lights have a brief life span due to damage by weather, people and animals. Lights also occasionally get ruined in the removal process, he said.
Alternative ideas to wrapping trees include plans to use a new flexible technology that allows a changing of light colors or having lighted arches over the streets.
Thwing said the issue ultimately always “goes back to how much you are going to spend on holiday lights.”
Funding for holiday lights comes from the DDA, which is funded through an additional tax that businesses pay specifically for development and enhancement of the downtown area. The money discussed is not taxpayer dollars, Domanski said.
What do you think?
In October, after owner Dan Davis called the holiday lights a “big waste of money,” we asked ; 95 percent of the 60 readers that responded said the lights were a good idea and put people in the holiday mood.
This time, we want to know whether readers prefer a new plan for holiday lights. Take our poll or leave your ideas in the comments.