Keremeos’ Christmas light up was a little less bright this year.
For the first time in as long as anyone can remember, the village’s Christmas season street decorations were not installed in time for the traditional Christmas kick off this year.
“It takes three groups coming together,” said Chief Administrative Officer Laurie Taylor on the afternoon of December 7. A permit which had to be procured from the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure is needed to allow Fortis to work on Seventh Avenue to set up the lights in conjunction with village staff.
“Fortis had a few emergencies and we had difficulty pinning down an installation date,” Taylor said, “staff has been working to get the three groups together for several weeks now.”
Taylor added that it was no single group’s fault, just unfortunate circumstances this year. She said the village is still hoping to get the decorations up before Christmas.
A letter written by Similkameen Country President Joan McMurray, addressed to the village was also distributed to members of the business community just prior to light up on Friday, in which the village’s performance was questioned, further noting that the light up event involved just about every local group in the region.
“Our application (for the parade) was made November 12, McMurray wrote, “Coordination with Fortis BC for the connection by a certified journeyman, when several live in the area, cannot be an insurmountable task?”
In previous years, the village was able to get the decorations up well before light up evening. In 2010 the decorations were installed on November 29, ahead of light up, which took place in December 3 that year. Last year, the lights went up on November 22, well in advance of the December 2 light up evening.
Jeff Wiseman, Penticton area Operations Manager for the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, told the Review on December 10 that the ministry was contacted by the Village of Keremeos late last week to inquire about a permit.
“We received an email from the Village of Keremeos last Thursday afternoon,” Wiseman said, “in which the village was applying for permission for their staff to perform traffic control while Fortis did the work. We sent Keremeos the application, but have not yet received the completed form.”
An issue the village is dealing with, said CAO Taylor, that is delaying their paperwork’s return, is a requirement on the application for a specified time frame in which the work will occur.
“We are still waiting to get a date for the work,” Taylor said, noting that Fortis can only do the work when it has a bucket truck available, and it is unkown exactly when that might be.
Michael Allison, spokeperson for Fortis said that the utility company had been in contact with the village, and remained hopeful the decorations would be installed before Christmas.
“Unfortunately, the scheduling for the truck, which is needed for maintenance and routine work, resulted in it not being available.”
Allison said that Fortis and the village were routinely in contact with each other over business matters.
Acting Mayor Arlene Arlow expressed apologies on behalf of the village late Friday afternoon. She understood the disppointment felt by community members who had put a number of volunteer hours into making the annual light up event a success.
On Friday night, many residents in the village could be heard questioning the absence of what has traditionally been the most visible manifestation of Christmas spirit on Keremeos’ main street as well.
The village’s businesses have been especially hard hit this year, as the local economy continues to struggle and retailers contend with high property taxes. Local merchants also had to cope with the loss of perennial retailer V and S Variety in the downtown core late summer.