Hamilton’s downtown holiday lights will shine longer: Festive look, or waste of funds?

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

They may not just be for Christmas any longer

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

The lights that shine along High Street downtown during the holidays may become a year-round sight.

For many, that’s seen as a good thing because it makes the area more welcoming and brighter. For others, it’s viewed as a waste of money and electricity to light up the trees all year.

“I think it’s a wonderful idea,” said Keith Nott, chairman of Hamilton’s downtown special improvement district, who was store manager for the former Elder-Beerman downtown and now helps care for buildings in the area. “I think it brings a certain warmth and homeyness, and creates a nice ambiance for the downtown.”

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Nathan Perry, Hamilton’s utility business manager, said the lights cost about $750 per month to power. Considering it takes a crew of 3-4 about 10 eight-hour days to take down or string the lights, it costs less to keep them lit through the year because it saves on the labor cost, he said.

Perry noted that the city switched to energy-efficient light-emitting diode strands in about 2010, and the current lights, which emit a cool bluish-white glow, use about 96,000 kilowatt-hours per year. That compares with the 600 million kilowatt-hours the city as a whole consumes annually.

The light use is equal to 0.016 percent of the city’s overall use, he said. The costs would be absorbed into the city’s overall operating costs and spread across the amount paid by electric ratepayers. When the $9,000 annual cost is divided among the city’s approximately 30,000 electric customers, it works out to about 30 cents a year on average.

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The lights themselves were purchased by the Downtown Christmas Lights Committee, which Perry said plans to raise money soon to illuminate trees along Main Street.

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When asked about the issue, social media users expressed a variety of opinions about the lights. Among them:

  • "It makes our city say 'welcome,'" wrote resident Gloria Faber.
  • Eric Goodwin of Aurora Distributing LLC Gaming & Hobbies said, "As a business owner in this city I wish they would focus attention throughout the city and not just 1 mile of street."
  • "Love them, leave them up all the time and would love to see some added to Main Street also," wrote resident Denise Adams. "I wouldn't mind a few extra bucks on utility bill for these. Plus people feel safer in well-lit environments"
  • Another said it "highlights the renaissance in Hamilton."
  • "I love lights but I don't like those," wrote Hamilton resident Kris Heindorf. "To quote James Thurber, 'There are two kinds of light — the glow that illuminates and the glare that obscures.' Not a fan of the glare of all that LED lighting in a big clump downtown. Little twinkle lights would be great.
  • Others said they would like to see the lighting extended both eastward and westward along the High-Main corridor.
  • "I don't mind a few extra dollars on my utility bill for this," said Rhonda Smith Sizemore. "I plan on spending even more time in this area of town now there are more restaurants and things to do, such as RiversEdge (Amphitheater), Municipal Brew Works and various festivals. I love seeing my hometown coming back to life!!"
  • "November through February," suggested another. "Brightens the gray days and nights of winter weather!"
  • Yet another said: "I love them! Leave them up all year. They really create a beautiful scene and fun mood in the city."

To see all the comments people offered, visit the Mike Rutledge-Journalist page on Facebook.