The Christmas season could be brighter and more creative because a city-sponsored Christmas lighting contest will offer prizes to the three best outdoor lighting displays in town.
Marion city council members voted Monday to award $500 to a first-place winner, $300 to a second-place winner, and $100 to a third-place winner after outdoor lighting displays are judged.
The contest is an alternative to a Christmas light incentive program used in the past that gave an electric bill credit for residents who decorated their homes with holiday lights.
City clerk Tiffany Jeffrey told council members that Marion offered a reduction on residents’ electric bills from 1999 through 2007, then discontinued the program when council members decided it did not warrant $2,500 in lost revenue. In 2011, the incentive was reinstated, but only for that year.
Jeffrey said there are 948 electric customers, and if 25 percent, as is typical, signed up for a $10 reduction this year, the loss in electrical revenues would be $2,370.
Mayor Todd Heitschmidt recommended a lighting contest instead. Awarding prize money would reduce lost revenue and reward people for participating. In the past, people have signed up and put up as little as a single electric candle in a window.
City administrator Roger Holter said the contest will encourage community spirit and boost Marion as a holiday destination.