For one group of residents, it’s not too soon to start planning for the Christmas holidays, including procuring colored lights for Hinesville’s live Christmas tree in Bradwell Park.
"White is so boring," longtime resident Joye Middleton said of the city’s clear Christmas tree lights. "We used to have beautiful Christmas trees with all the colors. For years and years they had colored lights. We’re ready for some color. We’re ready to bring back some spirit … liven up things. We just want to take back our tree this year."
Middleton said she will meet with Hinesville City Manager Billy Edwards on Monday to discuss changing the city’s clear Christmas tree lights to color.
Middleton said she and a group of friends and neighbors often reminisce about what it was like to grow up in Hinesville on a group Facebook page titled, "You are probably from or lived in Hinesville if you remember…."
The suggestion to change the lights evolved from one of the group’s discussions, Middleton said.
"We were just discussing it and a lot of people got involved in it and put a donation toward it," she said.
Edwards confirmed during a budget workshop last Thursday that the group has offered to raise the funds to pay for new colored Christmas tree lights. Hinesville Mayor Jim Thomas said he has received "a lot of calls from citizens" about changing the tree’s lights. He said the change would not include other lights or decorations the city hangs on buildings and street lights for the holidays.
"We will put colored lights on the tree," Thomas said last week.
Hinesville Chief Financial Officer Kimberly Ryon said the clear tree lights were purchased a year or two ago and the funding came out of the Hinesville Downtown Development Authority’s budget.
Edwards said it takes "the better part of a week" for a team of four or five city public-works employees to hang holiday lights. The lights go up the Monday after Thanksgiving and come down before New Year’s, he said.
Ryon said the city’s electric bill for holiday lights costs less now than it did two years ago. Edwards said this was a result of the city installing photocells, which control the lights so they are not burning 24 hours straight. Rather, they turn on at nightfall and shut off at daybreak, he said.
"We cut our (Georgia Power) bill almost in half by using the photocells," Ryon said. "We paid about $7,000 for the lights in 2009. In 2010 we paid $4,295."