Aztec finances threaten holiday contest

Hannah Grover

FARMINGTON — The Aztec City Commission will discuss the city's downtown holiday lights contest during a meeting Tuesday night.

Aztec City Commissioners Austin Randall, left, Sally Burbridge, Sherri Sipe and Sheri Rogers discuss an issue on March 8 at Aztec City Hall.

During a special commission meeting Oct. 28, Commissioner Katee McClure expressed concerns that the lighting contest — which is part of Aztec Sparkles, the city's annual Christmas celebration that includes family-friendly activities — may not be a good idea this year in light of the downturn in the economy.

While Aztec Sparkles grew last year in terms of the number of people who attended, business participation decreased, city officials say.

Each participating business has been given a $75 utility credit in the past. The first-place business receives $3,000 in utility credit, and the second-place business is given $2,000 in utility credit. The third-place business is given $1,000 in utility credit. Last year, 65 businesses participated, according to the agenda packet. The city issued $10,875 worth of utility credits.

McClure recommended that the city remove the utility credit incentives from the lighting contest this year.

"I know $10,000 doesn't sound like a lot in the grand scheme of things," McClure said during the Oct. 28 meeting. "But all these thousands and 10,000s and 5,000 stuff, it adds up."

She said she hopes the businesses that already have bought lights for the contest will display the lights even without the contest.

Mayor Sally Burbridge supported continuing the lighting contest but added that the city could look at reducing the amount of the prizes.

"I don't take the perspective, and I never do, that because times are hard we should fold up shop and go home and cancel Christmas," she said during the Oct. 28 meeting. "That's just not how I look at things."

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652.