Bill Grant, a Canton resident, downtown business owner and president of Canton Main Street’s board of directors, said he’s heard complaints from citizens downtown, customers at his business, and from out-of-towners after he posted a photo of one of the lights on Facebook.
“I haven’t heard anyone that likes them,” he said.
Canton Mayor Gene Hobgood said he has heard residents complain that the lights are not of high quality.
“The impression I get is that they feel the look is sort of cheesy,” he said.
The city council unanimously approved the purchase of the new lights at the Nov. 15 meeting at a cost of $30,000. The budget amendment was signed by Hobgood on Nov. 24.
Hobgood said city staff expressed the need to go ahead and order the lights at the Nov. 1 work session, during which the budget amendment was discussed. No council members voiced objections, Hobgood said.
“Nobody objected. … They affirmed it at the last meeting (Nov. 15),” he said.
Council Member Bill Bryan said the council did give implied approval to purchase the lights before taking an official vote.
“We did, at one of those meetings in the fall, give a nod. Everybody did,” he said. The first city council meeting of every month is a non-voting work session, which Bryan said was been a factor in the late voting.
At the Nov. 15 meeting, Bryan suggested possibly reconsidering the lights. Council Member John Beresford replied, “That’s a great thought, but they’re here.”
As far as the city council’s input into the lights, Hobgood said he and the other council members “glanced” at photos of the lights before they were purchased.
“You couldn’t really tell the quality or anything like that when you looked at it,” he said.
Bryan said he did not see a photo of the lights, but he understood the city would be getting lights similar to the lights that have been replaced.
His vote, he said, was to approve the budget amendment and give staff permission to select and purchase the lights.
Bryan sees the lights as an improvement.
“The old ones were just coming apart. They had been repaired and rigged and fixed for years. The ones we have are not only nice and new, I think the looks are an improvement on the old ones,” he said.
The city’s Main Street board was not consulted about the lights, according to Grant.
“We do have a design committee that would have been ideal for this,” he said. We’ve looked and reviewed other things for downtown. There was no public input, from my understanding.”
Downtown Development Authority president Wanda Roach said the DDA was not consulted about the lights.
Grant said he feels the lights and the way they were handled demonstrate a general lack of interest in outside input from the city.
The lights have been discussed by the city council off and on for a few years, Hobgood and Bryan both said.
“I’ve not received one shred of input from anybody in the public as to whether we should do this until after the fact, or any input on the selection of lights,” Bryan said.
Canton resident Sandy McGrew did address the lights at the Nov. 15 meeting, after they had been ordered.
Hobgood said more public input would have been beneficial, but he is not aware of any city policies that dictate which, if any, boards should review Christmas lights.
“With something so highly visible as with the lights, there probably should have been a lot more input with those various agencies,” he said.
Canton City Manager Scott Wood could not be reached by press time for comment.