Taxpayer money helps Christmas lights deck the streets

Taxpayer money helps Christmas lights deck the streets »Play Video

YAKIMA, Wash. -- Everyone has his or her own way to get into the holiday spirit. It's the same for cities. Yakima and others here in the valley put up Christmas lights. That takes some your taxpayer money. KIMA learned what it takes to put on the festive displays.

Downtown Yakima decks the streets with thousands of Christmas lights that shine every night.

"I noticed they were up and it really adds to the vibe of the winter spirit," said David Paulson.

Paulson is spending his eighth Christmas in Yakima. He says the festive lights make people feel welcome.

"I actually really like it when they go up," said Paulson. "I've got a number of my friends, we come down and cruise the scene for a while."

Getting Yakima into the holiday spirits costs money. KIMA learned Yakima bought new light strands and snowflakes in 2012 for almost $20,000. This year, the city spent $11,000 more. Another $3,000 every year goes to labor and maintenance.

"We probably have over a billion dollars in real estate value in Downtown," said Yakima City Manager Tony O'Rourke. "And to give it an uplift during the holidays, I think people like that."

Yakima's not alone in this investment. Action News pulled the numbers from several cities to see how much they spend on lights every year. Most of Union Gap's lights and tree are donated, but the city spends almost $1,200 on replacing broken bulbs and labor. Sunnyside spent $10,000 on new lights last year. Annual maintenance is $500. Toppenish spends a small amount on maintenance.

"Do you think money is being spent wisely on Christmas lights?," asked KIMA.

"Because it's only $3,000, it doesn't sound like that big of a waste compare to a lot of their other expenditures," said Michael Martin.

"I think we should do more. Double it. Yeah, it would be really great." said Paulson.

Some locals who didn't want to speak on camera said they would like to see the money spent elsewhere. But, most don't mind that little extra sparkle over the holidays.

Yakima also keeps some lights up year round.