UNION BRIDGE — Red and white lanterns will brighten Main Street this holiday season.
The Town Council decided the time had come to redecorate and approved $20,000 in its fiscal 1992 budget for holiday lights.
Last Thanksgiving, when the town dragged the same old Christmas wreaths out of storage and hung them along Main Street, residents toldBonnie M. Hyde, chair of the town lighting committee, that the town could do better. The few, old candle-and-wreath lights left much of Main Street cheerless.
"We didn't have enough lights to run the length of Main Street; they stopped at Locust Street," said Elaine Holmes, who works part time at the town office. "If you drive in on Route 75 from either direction, you don't even see any decorations until you are in the middle of town."
Hyde shopped catalogs, contacted electrical contractors and reported progress at each council session before choosing lanterns with a scroll of garland.
"I tried to consider all the residents and pick something traditional and generic," shesaid. "The lanterns seemed right. They also had a long durability life and were within our price range."
Six lanterns will have red lights, six white. By alternating two new lights and one old, the town will extend decorations from its south end to the north, ending at Elmer Wolfe Elementary.
Each light costs $298, including shipping, hardware and bulbs. Total cost includes an 8 percent discount on a purchase of 12.
Other towns also are planning to spruce up for the holidays.
Taneytown will add 12 new bell lights to its other decorations at a cost of $2,899.
New Windsor Mayor James C. Carlisle saidhe knows how expensive decorations can be.
Two years ago, the town decided to light its main square, at a cost of more than $1,000.
The mayor said the response was well worth the expense, with residents so pleased that they start asking him early in November when the lights are going up.
"We might buy more lights in the future and string them farther down High Street, maybe all the way to Main Street," he said. "It depends on the economy."
Westminster budgets $3,000to $3,500 yearly for replacement of aging lights and decorations. The city spent $3,200 of the $3,500 budgeted this year, the city's finance director said.
A volunteer group decorates City Hall. Employees of the city's Public Works Department put up the lights along Main Street. The city merchants association also helps with Main Street decorating.
Sykesville also has help with decorating expenses from its business association.
"Lots of municipalities decorate for Christmas," said James P. Peck, the Maryland Municipal League's associatedirector for research, and a former town manager for Delmar."I have never heard anyone complain about it."
Stuart Comstock-Gay, director of the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, said towns should not spend money celebrating a religious holiday.
"Theyare on safe legal ground with lanterns, bells and candy canes," he said. "But, it walks the fine edge of the Constitution."
The lanterns will go up sometime before Thanksgiving in Union Bridge. C. ThomasLambert Co., which submitted the lowest bid at $3,532, will run an additional line and install timers on street poles. The town also willpay Sam Lease $700 to install and remove the brackets.
The $12,000 budget surplus will be diverted to the water department to help paythe salary for a new wastewater operator.
With the contracts in hand and three days left to order or risk losing the discount and a guaranteed Thanksgiving delivery, Hyde asked Town Clerk Kathleen D. Kreimer to organize a special meeting to approve her selections (Oct. 27The Carroll County Sun).
Members voted on the $7,857 lighting contract for purchase and installation in a closed session Oct. 10.
The session was not in compliance with the state's open meetings law, said Jack Schwartz, chief counselor for opinions with the state Office of the Attorney General. Kreimer kept the minutes of that meeting and released them at the Oct. 21 regular meeting.
Mayor Perry L. Jones Jr. called the town's failure to notify the media an oversight, and said it would not happen again.