Santa waves to passersby on Baker Street years before Christmas lights were installed. Controversy has erupted at city council over how to proceed with the festive ornamentation.

Nelson council’s Christmas light fight

Councillors Kiss and Adams butt heads over ornamentation.

Councillor Paula Kiss accused Bob Adams of acting against council’s wishes and recommendations during a heated argument about Christmas lights at Monday night’s council meeting.

“I don’t want to see anyone in over their head,” she said. “I don’t think this organization has the budget to tackle trees and the ongoing implications.”

Adams has been a vocal supporter of the Baker Street Christmas lights, and is a member of the committee. This year the committee sought additional funds, but council threw cold water on the plan when they instructed staff to come up with a downtown master plan that would address the lighting issue earlier this summer.

This involves hiring a consultant to advise them on how to proceed and discussing how to incorporate the Christmas lights into a larger mandate for aesthetic development around Baker Street and the surrounding area.

However, since none of that will be completed this year, the committee is moving ahead with their work thanks to donations from the community and city’s Spurway Trust Fund. Kiss voiced concerns about what exactly that’s going to look like.

“I don’t want to see one individual councillor go ahead and say ‘well, that’s just going to happen’,” she said.

The Christmas lights will be installed either way, but at issue is the scope and budget of the project, and whether or not Nelson wants to be responsible for the ongoing maintenance.

“We get criticized a lot from the public for not pursuing things with careful thought. We’ve been doing a lot of planning. We’re trying not to jump into things until we understand the long term implications,” she said.

According to Kiss, the existing lights haven’t been maintained.

”The existing lights are exactly what I don’t want to reproduce. There are strings with no lights burning. Some with one or two. That’s not a great legacy, but that’s where we’re headed if we don’t give this careful thought.”

She asked why trees were being decorated when council had previously agreed that lights in trees are a bad idea.

“We’ve had this discussion and we agreed lights on buildings are great. But we were to avoid in every possible way lighting trees. In my recollection council agreed to this,” she said.

Councillor Deb Kozak confirmed this. “I remember,” she said.

“So why are we trying to light trees? Our tree management plan specifically speaks against it,” Kiss said. “Trees don’t come with electrical outlets.”

Kiss expressed concerns about the scope of this year’s improvements, and whether they will be in line with staff recommendations. She worried out loud that perhaps the group would put a strain on the city’s resources, including the time of department heads at Nelson Hydro and elsewhere.

“This is a small town. We have to be really clear on what our goals are,” she said. “I don’t want a lot of pressure put on department heads. I don’t want them feeling like they’re doing things they don’t want to do.”

Councillor Robin Cherbo took offence at Kiss’ comments. He said the department heads in the city are too professional to be pressured into doing things against their will. He said her comment shouldn’t have even been voiced.

Kiss did not reply.

Kiss said council members shouldn’t be allowed to contravene plans already established by council.

“It sounds like (Adams) missed the meeting, or didn’t know, or somehow forgot. I want to give him the benefit of the doubt.”

Adams fired back, saying he remembers no such agreement to avoid lighting trees. He said the volunteers involved have worked hard and they have the money available to expand.

“So we can’t do improvements?” he asked.

The answer was affirmative.

According to the recommendation, the lighting scheme will be expanded to the 100-block of Baker Street because it was a part of last year’s plan but was not completed. Any other improvements or expansions will have to wait until 2015.

The consensus from council throughout the most recent meetings seems to be that though they’re grateful for the hard work of volunteers, they would like the committee to pump the brakes on future improvements. Both councillors Deb Kozak and Donna Macdonald expressed gratitude to the volunteers, but urged them to “pause” before moving forward.

“I really think we need to be clear with the committee that this work will be securing and cleaning, not adding,” said Macdonald.

City manager Kevin Cormack agreed. “The intent of this is to clean up, not to expand.”

Reached the day after the debate, Adams was disappointed by the result of the meeting.

“Our lights have been getting bigger and bigger and better every year. Now council thinks we need a planner, a designer. I thought we were doing well. It was a shock to us.”

Despite the controversy, the lighting plan is going ahead.

 

Just Posted

Slocan Valley added to communities on flooding evac alert

Kootenay Lake is expected to reach flooding level in Nelson by Friday

UPDATED: Hwy 3 west of Creston remains closed due to mudslide

A detour is available on the Kootenay Lake Ferry, but commuters could see wait times

COLUMN: Making a wildlife smart community

David White writes how property owners can avoid conflict with nature

Police searching for Nelson man

Brent Mickelson hasn’t been heard from since February

Local police recognized for work

Eight officers were honoured for removing impaired drivers

VIDEO: After the floods, comes the cleanup as Grand Forks rebuilds

Business owners in downtown wonder how long it will take for things to go back to normal

Rachel Notley to skip premiers conference to focus on pipeline deal

Kinder Morgan has ceased all non-essential spending on the Trans Mountain pipeline project until it receives assurances

B.C. tech company will power Uber Elevate

Moli and Uber announce research and development partnership.

UPDATE: Woman dies in ocean accident near Tofino hours before daughter’s wedding

“We are so thankful to everyone who helped our mom.”

Olympian sues USA Swimming, saying it failed to protect her

Ariana Kukors Smith alleges her former coach Sean Hutchison began grooming her for sexual abuse at the age of 13

Defence minister thanks troops for B.C. flood relief work

Harjit Sajjan says not only was military response quick, support from locals has been ‘tremendous’

Couple survives being buried in mudslide on B.C. highway

The couple, from Saskatchewan, were en route to Nelson when a tree fell in their path

‘So grateful:’ Injured Bronco hockey player glad he’s alive, works on recovery

Ryan Straschnitzki was badly hurt in the accident: a spinal injury, broken ribs, a broken collar bone, and punctured lung

PHOTOS: Floodwaters rise and fall in Grand Forks

The flood-ravaged Kootenay-Boundary region begins to heal

Most Read