Money woes may end annual visit by Santa

September 30, 1992|By Donna E. Boller | Donna E. Boller,Staff Writer

Once upon a time in a city called Westminster, there was a group of merchants who brought Santa Claus to town every year so he could hear the children's wishes and remind them to be good.

But one year -- 1992 -- the merchants peered into their purse and saw only a few pieces of silver at the bottom. They didn't even have a piece of plastic that they could have used to charge Santa's visit.

So the merchants asked the City Council for $240 to pay Santa's salary for a few Saturday visits between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

No, said the council. No, no, no.

No, said Councilman Stephen R. Chapin Sr., chairman of the finance committee. Picking up Santa's tab would set a precedent, he said.

"We'd have people saying, 'You gave the Westminster Business Association $240 for Santa Claus. Now we want $240 for Santa Claus.' "

But everyone wants to see Santa come to town, said business association treasurer Len Joseph, owner of Diversified Blueprints Services. "It's something we're looking forward to, it's something people have gotten used to, the whole Santa Claus-St. Nicholas activities. We're trying to go along with tradition."

No, said Council President William F. Haifley. "Traditionally, the city has denied these requests."

Mayor W. Benjamin Brown said that if the business association pays Santa, the city will pay for workers' time to set up bleachers for the crowd and wire the tree for the traditional lighting ceremony when Santa arrives.

Mr. Joseph and association vice president David Max refused to say how much the association has left in its budget. Mr. Joseph said the budget is based on average annual dues of $150 paid by the 35 members. The city government became a "gold member" this year with a $500 membership.

Mr. Joseph said the merchants will take a hard look at projected expenses for the fourth quarter of the year and see if they can squeeze out the money for Santa. But he's not optimistic.

"At this point," he said, "it looks bleak."

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