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Waukesha turns to crowd funding to finance new holiday lights

WAUKESHA -- Mayor Shawn Reilly sees a bright future for his downtown.

\"You have the dark winter months, having nice, bright Christmas lights makes it that much more cheerful,\" Reilly said Monday.

Spreading holiday joy in the form of new lights - about $20,000 worth of energy-efficient LED decorations lining light poles along Main and Clinton Streets.  There's just one problem - the lights aren't in the city's budget.

\"Getting the common council to agree to fund them out of taxpayer money would be difficult,\" Reilly said.

The mayor says funding to replace the city's 15 to 20-year-old decorations simply doesn't make the cut.  Instead, Waukesha is now asking its residents to make freewill donations online.

\"Downtown could use some sprucing up, so it might look nice, but not worth the money, I don't think,\" downtown employee Tim Lambrecht said.

Lambrecht isn't opposed to asking people for money, but he also isn't convinced Christmas  decorations do much for the city as a whole.

Karin Kruse lived a few blocks from downtown for the last two years. 

\"They're important to create the atmosphere,\" Kruse said.

Kruse is no Grinch and likes decorations, but says the money raised might better serve others. 

\"If people do have a little bit of extra funds to be able to donate to, then there's a lot of other causes the money could go to,\" Kruse said.

The city has a long ways to go, having only raised $555 by Monday afternoon and the deadline coming Sunday.  Just two donations have come in the last week.

\"No, I don't see them reaching the goal,\" Kruse said.  \"I think that probably shows that people are willing to keep the  decorations as they are.\"

Each decoration costs about $300.  Reilly says no matter how much the city raises, all of the cash will go toward decorations.  The mayor says if donations reach $3,000, an anonymous donor will match with another $3,000.

You can find the crowd funding site through this link.

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