Holiday lights split council

The conversation wasn’t very festive as Vernon officials debated what to do with Christmas lights.

The conversation wasn’t very festive as Vernon officials debated what to do with Christmas lights.

There was some opposition after most of city council decided Christmas star decorations can only be installed on light standards along a portion of 30th Avenue and not the entire length of main street.

“This is the city micromanaging something we’ve given to the Downtown Vernon Association to do,” said Coun. Mary-Jo O’Keefe, adding that it will lead to some blocks being more decorative than others.

“This is unnecessarily dividing our main street.”

The issue of the star lights arose last year when city crews were installing two per pole on 30th Avenue, east of 32nd Street.

“A DVA individual instructed the employees to split the stars and put one on each post down the entire length of main street,” said Will Pearce, the city’s chief administrative officer.

That led to a review of records and in the absence of documents indicating who purchased the lights, the city has determined ownership resides with the specified area of property owners on the east end of 30th Avenue. That means the star lights can only be used by them and not along other parts of the road where property owners did not contribute with the purchase.

“These are enhancements paid for by the businesses in the area,” said Coun. Catherine Lord.

That view was supported by Coun. Juliette Cunningham, who has a business on the east side of 30th Avenue.

“The city and the DVA can’t distribute the assets of a specified area to someone else,” she said.

But O’Keefe questions how far the city goes with the concept that the star lights belong to the property owners on the east side of 30th Avenue.

“They own the asset so should we say, ‘You maintain it now or you replace it?’” she said.

The DVA is frustrated with council’s actions.

“Staff at the city and DVA staff have been working for months to come up with a solution to this issue. We thought we came up with a solution for lights on 30th Avenue,” said Lara Konkin, DVA executive director.

“It appears council is not aware of that process.”

Konkin says the DVA has agreed to purchase star lights for the rest of 30th Avenue and those on the east side would be upgraded to be energy efficient and have the same design as the new lights.

“We want 30th Avenue to look like one cohesive group.”

Konkin wants the council decision revisited.

“I hope it doesn’t stop the process we came up with,” she said.