The high cost of nostalgia

The good old days bumped up against reality this week at the New Ulm City Council’s work session. In a discussion of the downtown holiday decorations, the council got some estimates of what it would cost to start stringing evergreen garlands across Minnesota Street for the Christmas season. It wasn’t encouraging.

City staff had come up with two options, and neither one is economically feasible.

The cheaper of the two would cost $600,000 or so to install poles to support the garlands, and this would just be at the intersections, not at all like the row upon row of evergreen that people yearn for from yesteryear.

A second option, which would involve some 18 sets of poles to string more garlands, would cost nearly $1 million. The council concluded that there are better things to do with $600,000 or $1 million.

Why so expensive? When the downtown businessmen started stringing the garlands decades ago, it was a matter of sinking bolts into buildings and stringing wires across the street. Not a lot of engineering went into it, and for many years it worked fine. But over time, buildings changed, new ones replaced old, and old ones got older. The bolt system became too chancy, as evidenced when a guy wire rubbed the insulation off an electrical wire one year and started a fire, that fortunately didn’t cause much damage.

Today there are much more stringent safety standards to meet, which costs more money.

There’s nothing wrong with wishing the old garlands could be brought back, but at some point the cost of that nostalgia is too high.


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