Shawnee Snowflakes In Need Of Restoration
January 24, 2019
Shawnee's Interim City Manager Eric Benson said Monday that "it's not that we lost enthusiasm" for the city's snowflake Christmas street decorations, "but we lost ability."
After citing two important factors that affect the issue, OG&E's inability to install the hangers due to new code requirements and need to refurbish most of the 300 or more snowflake lights, Benson said "it would be a wonderful endeavor if the community could find the means to do it, or acquire" modern, up- to- date street decorations, he would "welcome them and would find a way to help when installed."
"I think we would be open minded to looking at what could be done," Ed Bolt, community coordinator for Safe Events For Families, (SEFF), said Tuesday.
SEFF sponsors the annual Christmas parade, Christmas tree lighting program "and has always been involved in Christmas decorations," Bolt said. "But we're a small board. We would not have the manpower it would require. I would love to say we'll do it but all the money we get is money people give us.
"I can't say today that we are committed" to taking any action, but "I think we're open to looking at what we can do."
The subject of the snowflake Christmas street decorations - or lack of them - arose before this past Christmas when comments on social media indicated people like them and missed them.
Jim VanAntwerp, City of Shawnee beautification director, said at that time that only 20-something of the usual 300 or more snowflakes were hung for the 2018 Christmas season and those were placed on east and west ends of Main Street.
New light poles installed when the central part of Main Street was renovated will not accommodate the snowflakes. The nearly 30-year-old snowflakes themselves are very worn, but are made with steel and can be repaired, he said at that time.
If there is interest in refurbishing them, "we can get another 15 years out of them," VanAntwerp estimated. "This is a good time to think about them for next year," he said, adding that next November would be too late to get any major repair work done.
Ann Davis, Shawnee businesswoman now with Ell's Jewelry, sold 400 snowflake street decorations by going door to door to businesses along major city streets in the early 1990s, she said before this past Christmas.
After the newly bought snowflakes arrived, "OG&E wired all the poles for us - for free," she remembers. "That was a big, big, big help."
The snowflakes had been lighting city streets every Christmas since then - until last year.
Interim City Manager Benson indicated he would like to get them repaired and back in use. "We understand it's a very traditional thing.
"We could not find a suitable maker. I would welcome that information," he said.
Cost is another consideration. "Right now," Benson continued, the snowflake street decorations are on a list of critical things to do, and some critical decisions are having to be made.
"The lights came out in '96. They deteriorate. Some we can't make work." He said the best ones they could find totaled about 54.
"A challenge also was, we had two guys that could hang them. We had to switch them from job to job, from fixing streets to hanging lights. Our street department hangs the lights; it does require some experience to do it."
One of those two major factors he initially mentioned "is out of our control," Benson said.
"OG&E is not installing the hangers and the power source." They require a different type of installation than the present code that OG&E abides by today, he explained.
In the years since they first arrived in Shawnee, "OG&E's code requirements have changed.
"I met with OG&E personally about this issue. We tried to find a suitable compromise. They're cooperating with us with the ones we have up now. I'm very, very flattered with what they do," Benson said.
"We looked at all those issues."
He said he plans to still use the snowflakes "where the poles are so that we can put them on them.
"We only have about 50 of them; we could put them all on Main
Street and have a bigger collective impact" than if scattered on heavily-used residential streets over the city.
"Using public funds is always a bit sketchy, especially when you have a tight budget already," Benson said, as he invited the community to "find the means" to solve the Christmas street decoration problem.