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Holidays will be aglow in Jeannette this season, future uncertain

| Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

It looks like Santa Claus will be coming to town this year and there will be Christmas lights on Clay Avenue to welcome him.

However, there is still no definitive answer on who will sponsor the Christmas lights in years to come.

Last fall, the Jeannette Business Association (JBA) announced that 2012 would be the last year the group would be responsible for funding and hanging the Christmas lights throughout the city.

The association also let it be known that there was money in the lighting account.

“The JBA currently has $1,555.21 in our Christmas light account which we are willing to turn over to any individual or group who would be willing to take over the lighting project,” said JBA treasurer Eric Slavin.

But, after a year, no one has stepped up officially to take over the project for the long haul.

In the short term, former JBA Christmas Lights Committee chairman Rob Fejes and Jeannette resident Leonard Galante have decided that between the two of them, and with the money that is available from JBA, they can do the lights on a limited basis this year.

“I've talked to Rob Fejes,” said Galante. “And I'll help out as much I can.”

Galante and his son do a large Christmas lights display at the bottom of Seventh Street, in his mother's yard, each year.

Galante is concerned that the $1,555 that Slavin says is left in the in the JBA Christmas Lighting account might not be enough.

“I don't have the financial means to contribute anything to the project,” said Galante. “But I want to help out.”

“The decorations will be limited, this year, but there will be decorations,” said Fejes.

He is confident that the money held by JBA will be enough to do a limited display.

Annually, the lighting project costs anywhere from $3,000 to $4,000, and includes the repairs, set-up, tear down, and the cost of power.

“I can, at a minimal cost, put up all the bells, and maybe the cross street decorations coming into Jeannette” said Fejes.

The larger issue is sustainability.

“The greater issue is really next year,” said Fejes. “The greatest part is having a committee and doing the fundraising that is necessary to keep this up.”

Councilwoman Kathie Tanyer is in agreement. She contacted Tay Waltenbaugh, Executive Director of Westmoreland Community Action, to get a meeting of the Jeannette Community Action Team scheduled.

The team is a group of resident volunteers who are working to beautify the city utilizing elbow grease and the tax credit funds from the Neighborhood Partnership Program, which is administered through Waltenbaugh's organization.

“A Community Action Team meeting is being scheduled for Nov. 20,” said Waltenbaugh. He has already talked to the Neighborhood Partnership Program contributors — the Elliot Company and First Niagara Bank. “We can commit to donating $1,000 this year to get the lights up and running, and buying new lights next year.”

The additional $1,000 from NPP will be welcome by Fejes and Galante and will ensure that there will be enough money to pay for the limited display this year.

Although buying new lights next year might solve some problems, it still leads to questions of who will pay to put them up in the future, and who will pay the electric bill. Mayor Robert Carter feels that the fire truck could be used to assist in putting up the lights at least this year.

“The truck was paid for by taxpayers' dollars and we should be able to use it for things that benefit the community. Everyone should understand though, that the truck would still be available (to fight fires) during that time,” said Carter.

Although the lights are getting older, Fejes says they are still in working condition, but it takes a lot of work to put those kinds of lights up, especially the cross-street swags.

“We are spoiled here. Go to Delmont or Youngwood. Nobody goes as extravagant as Jeannette. No one has across-the-street stuff like we do. Delmont puts up banners that are sponsored by individual businesses. They are so much easier to maintain and the sponsorships pay for the program. However, now that the trees are down, the bells will look good,” said Fejes.

Tanyer would also like to expand the decorations downtown to include murals in the business windows that were painted by high school students.

“I am considering approaching someone to go and talk to the business owners about murals in their windows. I don't want to do it myself, because I don't want people to think it is a city project,” said Tanyer.

The Jeannette Business Association has offered to collect contact information of volunteers that are willing to help with the Christmas lights and pass them on to NPP, Fejes and Galante.

Anyone who wants to help out with this year's Christmas light display can send a message to the JBA through its Facebook page to leave contact information.

Volunteers and interested parties are also encouraged to attend the Jeannette Community Action Team meeting on Nov. 20, at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall.

Margie Stanislaw is a contributing writer.