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Borough Grants Merchants $7,500 for Holiday Program

Candace Braun

Borough Council approved a donation of $7,500 for holiday decorations and advertising to the Borough Merchants for their Old Fashioned Holiday program at its October 12 meeting.

The holiday program will include strolling musicians, a strolling Santa, advertising in local media, and decorations along Nassau Street. Councilman Andrew Koontz cast the lone vote against the donation. He objected to funding more than 50 percent of the total cost of the program.

After approving a donation of $5,000 for the program last week, Council had asked that the merchants plea their case for another full $7,500, as was given last year to make up for the lack of available parking in town. In previous years, before downtown construction, the Borough had only given $5,000.

According to Kathy Morolda, president of Borough Merchants, the group needs the full $7,500 donation from the Borough, since they have already allocated $2,500 for advertising, $1,700 for strolling musicians, and $125 per day for a strolling Santa. She pointed out that the group had already planned a budget based on the assumption that they would receive the same amount this year.

In addition to funds from the Borough, merchants received 11 other donations last year, said Ms. Morolda, including $500 from Palmer Square Management.

Both Palmer Square and the Nassau Inn pay for their own holiday decorations, she said. The decorations paid for by the program would run along Nassau Street, down to Harrison Street.

Councilman David Goldfarb objected to the donation, saying that the holiday decorations would only benefit certain businesses in the center of town, rather than downtown businesses as a whole.

"I try not to be biased, but I think a special improvement district (SID) is the best solution for this town," he said, adding that what is needed is a "certain person representing the interests of everyone in town." A SID would help raise the funds for programs such as this, and help find ways to make the program benefit everyone, he added.

Mr. Koontz said that while he wants to help the merchants in town succeed in business, he doesn't see why the Borough should furnish more than half the funds for the program when there are so many others directly benefitting from the project who could contribute.

Bob Bruschi, Borough administrator, suggested that the Borough give the full amount of $7,500, with an advisory as to how the merchants should spend the money. He said that $5,000 could go toward decorations, and the other $2,500 could go toward local advertising in which the Borough would be able to include a pitch for the new Spring Street garage.

Council members agreed. "If we can spend money to make money, this is the way to do it," said Councilwoman Wendy Benchley.

Council President Mildred Trotman added that the merchants shouldn't assume next year that they will receive the same donation as previous years.

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