Let there be lights

Published 12:57 am Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Contributing Editor

Washington’s City Council liked the recent proposal to install new LED Christmas lights on 37 trees along Main and Market streets over several years. Rather than string it out over several years, the council opted for the idea of installing all of those new lights at the same time. At its Oct. 11 meeting, that’s what the council voted to do.
Beth Byrd, director of the Washington Harbor District Alliance, presented WHDA’s Christmas lights plan to the council. That plan called for installing new lights on 10 trees a year.
“WHDA would like to encourage the City to continue with the LED lights replacement in downtown Washington. WHDA would like to have the LED lights available for other street festivals held in the evenings, such as Art Walk,” reads a memorandum from WHDA to city officials.
Having the lights available for other street festivals would mean permanently stringing the lights in downtown trees, according to the WHDA memorandum.
“WHDA is committed to seeing this project to the finish. As you know, with the unfortunate outcome of our largest fundraiser (the Beach Music Festival), we are not able to contribute any funds to this project at this time. But you do have our guarantee that we will follow through on our commitment to this plan in the future,” Byrd told the council.
WHDA’s proposal called for installing the new LED warm white lights in 10 trees from the intersection of West Main and Gladden streets eastward to just past Respess Street this year. The cost for the city to do that was $756.12, according to the WHDA memorandum. After installing the new lights on 10 trees this year, under the proposal, the city would install the old, traditional lights in the remaining downtown areas that were illuminated in recent years.
Last year, WHDA (then known as Downtown Washington on the Waterfront), provided the funding to buy some new Christmas lights for the downtown area. Those lights had a blue tint to them, making them stand out from the older white lights the city had been putting up for several years. Some people didn’t like the new lights. Others didn’t like the mixture of the new lights and old lights.
“These (new LED warm white) lights could be used year after year,” Byrd said in her presentation to the council.
“Instead of doing 10 trees at a time, we need to get this right,” Mayor Archie Jennings said at the Oct. 11 meeting.
Moments later, Councilman Ed Moultrie made the motion for the city to pay for replacing all of the traditional lights with the new LED warm white lights. Councilman William Pitt seconded the motion, which was approved by the council. The council is expected to amend the city’s budget to provide revenue to pay for the new lights.