December 1, 2012
City brightens for holiday
New lights, Christmas balls hung on trees along Main St.
Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Cortland city employee Gerrod Darling replaces bulbs in the tree in front of City Hall Friday morning in preparation for the annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony tonight, which begins at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall.
Downtown Cortland is going to look brighter this holiday season with the addition of new lights on Main Street trees.
The city has joined with the Cortland Downtown Partnership to help bring the city up to speed with other municipalities, said Adam Megivern, the Downtown Partnership’s executive director. The agreement says the city will match the money raised by the partnership for downtown lighting.
Megivern said the total cost was between $6,000 and $7,000, which he added was low because this year the city Department of Public Works is doing the work.
“We asked the Common Council for a request to match funds for the project, and they felt it was important enough to do,” Megivern said.
In previous years, the work was contracted out to private company or was done by the now-defunct city Public Safety Department. The department has been cut back slowly over the years and its last employee will be reassigned to a different department in 2013.
For the last two years, there was just one employee in the department, forcing the tree lighting work to be contracted. In turn, Megivern said, that increased the cost.
The lights are going on 28 trees, with 10 of them getting “special treatment,” according to DPW Supervisor Nick Dovi. The DPW is taking down all of the old holiday lights on 10 trees on Main Street and replacing them with LED, or light-emitting diode, bulbs, which Megivern said are more energy efficient. Along with the lights, those trees are also getting special holiday-style balls put on them, with LED lights inside.
Each tree will have a photo eye, a sensor that tells the lights when to turn on and off. Megivern said the lights will be on from dusk until dawn.
Megivern stressed the lights that were taken down were in disrepair, either due to the elements, vandalism or just normal wear and tear.
Four trees at the corner of Main Street and Clinton Avenue, four at Main and Port Watson streets, and two at Main and Court streets are getting the special treatment.
“They will look like Christmas trees, with the balls hanging on them and lights lit up,” Megivern said. “It’s all part of the plan to give downtown Cortland a greater festive holiday spirit this year.”
While the work is not slated to be completed until the end of next week, much has been done ahead of the city’s tree-lighting ceremony, taking place outside of City Hall on Court Street at 6:30 p.m. Saturday. Inside the firehouse next door to City Hall will be coffee, hot chocolate and “Christmas goodies,” said Steven Rhea, assistant to the mayor.
Prior to New York Jets training camp last summer, the DPW began the task of taking down the old, worn holiday lights along Main Street and replacing them on certain trees.
Dovi said the staff waited to do the special trees until the leaves fell, making it easier to access and less time-consuming.
“The real work is in taking down the old lights,” Dovi said. “Once they’re down, all we have to do is put up the new lights. And doing this doesn’t interfere with the regular work our department does, as we still have crews out picking up leaves and doing what the DPW does.”
The work happens in teams of two. An employee drives one of the city’s two lift trucks to a tree, while the other gets in the lift and does the work. Dovi said there are usually two crews out per day.
“We’re hoping this adds one more thing that draws people to our downtown this holiday season,” Megivern said. “It’s one part of a bigger project, which is to revitalize our downtown.”
Mayor Brian Tobin said the cost to the city was “nominal” and that it is an investment the city needed to make this holiday season.
“We hope the downtown will feel just like the way Cortland is — welcoming and comfortable,” he said. “The lights only add a festive nature to the sense of our community.”
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