City pulls plug on role in downtown rooftop lighting |

City pulls plug on role in downtown rooftop lighting

A new city policy has cast a shadow on efforts to do more to illuminate downtown Glenwood Springs for the holidays.

The city has stopped lighting up the tops of buildings downtown, after city manager Jeff Hecksel decided the practice was inappropriate because it involves private rather than public property.

Hecksel defended his decision at this week’s City Council meeting, but also apologized for the way it was implemented. He said the new policy should have been communicated to downtown business owners earlier so they had more time to take care of the rooftop lights themselves.

The policy doesn’t end the city’s financial commitment toward lighting up public areas of the city ” primarily downtown ” for the holidays. As in years past, it is contributing at least $25,000 toward such efforts. It also is picking up the electric bill.

But City Council member Joe O’Donnell questioned Hecksel’s decision about the rooftop lights, saying the city had been taking care of that lighting for 20 years.

Council member Larry Beckwith backed Hecksel. He joked that he’d love to have the city string up lights at his house, too. “But I don’t think that’s a good practice,” he said.

One concern for the city is the liability involved in having its employees dealing with lights on private property.

Hecksel’s decision comes during a holiday season in which businesses have been working to do more to light up downtown to help it compete with the newly opened Glenwood Meadows commercial development. The Downtown Business Association has been collecting donations toward the effort, and taking advantage of additional city electrical service that was installed in the area as part of the repaving of Grand Avenue.

Unfortunately, the effort also suffered a brief but untimely setback when power circuits serving the lights were blown the day after Thanksgiving. That left the decorative lighting off on what is traditionally one of the biggest shopping days of the holiday season. The problem later was corrected.

Council member Chris McGovern, also a downtown businesswoman, sees a bright spot in the city leaving it up to private property owners to take care of lighting on their buildings. In an e-mail Friday to downtown business owners, she noted, “We can keep the twinkly lights on longer through the winter season if it is not a city program.”

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