Common Council approves Christmas tree project

Falls Council accepts Lions Club donation for Christmas tree stand
by Jeff Pederson Sheboygan Falls News Editor

The Sheboygan Falls Common Council approved the installation of a Christmas tree stand, including full funding from the Sheboygan Falls Lions Club, during a special meeting at the Sheboygan Falls Municipal Building Tuesday, Oct. 27.

After 45 minutes of intense debate and discussion regarding the structure of public funding for the Christmas tree stand, the council accepted a $5,000 donation from the Sheboygan Falls Lions Club to cover all related costs, including engineering, construction, installation and maintenance fees.

The council also approved a proposal from A. Chappa Construction of Sheboygan Falls to construct the stand at a cost of $3,112.

Sheboygan Falls Chamber- Main Street Executive Director Shirl Breunig opened the meeting by reviewing the timeline of events that led to the consideration of bringing back the tradition of having a community Christmas tree at the Municipal Building.

Breunig noted that the Friends of St. Paul Lutheran Church, which had sponsored the lighting of the previous community Christmas tree that was removed during the Municipal Building renovation project, inquired about the possibility of having the tree return this year.

At a property committee meeting on Oct. 6, Breunig requested that the Common Council consider resuming the former custom of having a community Christmas tree on the front lawn of the Municipal Building, which would be lit at the conclusion of the annual Main Street Memories Parade, which is scheduled to take place this year on Saturday, Dec. 5.

“After submitting the request to the Common Council to bring back the community Christmas tree, City Engineer Rick Le Mahieu designed a tree stand for the front lawn of the Municipal Building Joel Schoneman of Sheboygan Falls Utilities developed a plan to provide electricity for the tree lights and I suggested that A. Chappa Construction be contacted about building the tree stand,” Breunig said. “After Chappa submitted its quote of $3,112, the council charged Chamber-Main Street to raise public funds to pay for the stand. I then began to work on the fundraising needed to cover the cost of the tree stand.

“To date, we have raised $2,130 through donations from organizations, individuals and businesses from throughout the community,” she said. “I also received a call from Al Mayer, who said the Sheboygan Falls Lions Club would underwrite the project with the inclusion of naming rights. I took this back to our Chamber-Main Street Board of Directors, which determined that the project should be community-based with all interested parties coming together to help fund it. The Chamber-Main Street Board indicated that it did not want to seek naming rights for the tree, because we considered it a gift to the community.”

Breunig said she called Mayer back and left a voice message informing him of the board’s decision, but she did not hear back from him.

Mayer, who is also a city alderman, expressed frustration that the Chamber-Main Street Board did not accept the Lions Club’s donation.

“I agree that this project should be a community project,” Mayer said. “We determined at our last council meeting that we did not want this project to be taxpayer funded, and therefore public funding was needed in order for the project to happen.

“I don’t understand why our donation was rejected,” he said. “I thought the Lions Club was part of this community. We’ve given funds to a number of different city projects over the years, including for the police body cameras and the westside park project. I didn’t think Chamber-Main Street had been put in charge of raising the money all on their own. I was under the impression that any organization, business or individual could step up to make a donation and that is what the Lions Club has done.”

Mayer also took exception to the Lions Club being denied naming right for the tree stand.

“To me, there is no reason why the Lions have been forbidden from having naming rights for the stand,” Mayer said. “Other community organizations have had their names on things, such as the Kiwanis Tree Nursery and the Jaycees River Walk. The Lions feel that by making this donation, we are taking away the risk to the taxpayers if somehow the money to cover the costs of stand can’t be raised publicly.

“As a whole, the Lions feel that by making this donation now, we could get this project done in time for the tree lighting ceremony on December 5th,” he said. “Otherwise, considering how little time we have to do this, we might be too late and have to wait until next year.”

Mayor Randy Meyer said he did not oppose the Lions Club’s donation, but expressed a differing view on the subject of naming rights for the tree.

“I have no problem with the Lions Club donation the money and maybe having a nice plaque on the stand stating their donation,” Meyer said. “However, I don’t think the tree itself should have naming rights attached to it. I don’t have any issue with the Lions Club at all. They have done great things for our community, but I think the tree should remain solely as a community Christmas tree with no other name attached to it.”

In response, Lions Club President Jim Schleicher said the club would not pursue naming rights for the tree.

“We are not asking for naming rights to the tree,” Schleicher said. “We would like, though, for the stand to have something on it that stated that it was donated by the Sheboygan Falls Lions Club. People always ask what the Lions Club does with its money and it would be nice to have a plaque or some kind of marker on the stand that people can read and see what the club did to help out our community.”

The council concluded the meeting by approving three motions in unanimous fashion.

The first motion was to build and install a publicly funded tree stand.

The second motion was to accept a $5,000 donation from the Sheboygan Falls Lions Club to cover the costs of the stand, including the inclusion of a plaque on the stand to officially recognize the Lions Club’s donation.

The third and final motion was to accept a quote of $3,112 from A. Chappa Construction to construct the tree stand.

The city and Chamber-Main Street will be collaborating to develop a plan for accepting a donated tree from the community to serve as this year’s community Christmas tree.

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