Downtown merchants already are getting into the Christmas spirit.
At a meeting Tuesday night, the group decided to hand out dimes to local Christmas shoppers to help defray the cost of parking at downtown meters.
This is a departure from the organization's practice of about five years of placing hoods over downtown meters and reimbursing the city for the potential lost revenues.
Mike Vieux, Downtown Lawrence president, said each of the 40 business members of the voluntary group will be asked to place a sign in their windows to let shoppers know they will pay for the meter.
"WE FELT that it was just as good to plug the meter, rather than bag the meter," Vieux said. "It also eliminates the problem of people who work down here or live down here. When the meters get bagged, they park there and takes away our customers' parking."
He said customers who come into the stores will be given dimes by the participating merchants, Nov. 26 through Dec. 24.
Although it's possible some people will take advantage of the dimes being handed out by downtown merchants, Vieux said "the good will is worth it. I don't think anybody could get rich from collecting dimes downtown."
Last year, about $2,500 to $3,000 was paid to the city to reimburse lost meter revenues, he said. The donations from businesses last year didn't quite pay for the lost revenue, so the rest came from the organization's budget.
"With the new budget that money just isn't there," Vieux said.
THIS YEAR'S budget, financed with annual membership dues in the voluntary organization, is just under $40,000. That compares with last year's budget of $84,000, which was financed by revenue from the now defunct business improvement district. Vieux said the organization spent $65,000 of its last year's budget.
Although funds are low, Vieux said the organization has purchased a mile of new Christmas lights for the downtown.
The original lights were purchased when the downtown's trees were small, so more lights are needed to fill out those trees, he said.
He said plans are being made for the annual Christmas promotion, which will begin Nov. 26 when Santa Claus makes his first appearance downtown.
Vieux said all of the details still are being worked out, but there will be vocal entertainment as well.
During the annual promotion, downtown merchants are being asked to stay open until 8:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, said Leslie Johnson, who is on the group's promotions committee.
Downtown Lawrence will conduct another general membership meeting on Jan. 11 at the Elizabeth M. Watkins Community Museum, 11th and Massachusetts.