SPECIAL TO THE TRIBUNE
HOISINGTON — During past Christmas seasons, a life-sized nativity scene on the Clara Barton Hospital front lawn was a familiar sight, all lit up for by-passers to admire.
It was a Christmas staple for many residents and visitors. It was a special part of the Christmas tradition in Hoisington community, dating back to the days of the Hoisington Lutheran Hospital Association.
Over the years, it passed to different organizations that took charge of the display. But the tradition came to a halt over 10 years ago when the nativity was stored and never made another appearance.
In hopes of reviving the tradition, Clara Barton Hospital is working to restore the figurines and plans to display the scene again on the hospital’s front lawn for years to come.
“This project just really felt good for our community,” said Clara Barton Hospital President/CEO Jim Blackwell. “We noticed right away that the nativity had a very strong public appeal and I wanted to see the hospital bring back something that was very special to the community.”
He said they are excited bring it back and are willing to take on the responsibility of setting it up, taking it down and maintaining it.
Last December, the Masonic Lodge presented Clara Barton Hospital with the key to the shed housing the display. Although most of the figurines were accounted for, there was one important piece missing – baby Jesus. After hearing this, hospital Foundation Board member Bob Schreiber stepped in to help.
In memory of Bob’s parents, Richard and Mary Ann Schreiber, Schreiber and his wife Denise donated a new baby Jesus.
“After my parents passed, we set up a donation fund in their memory,” said Schreiber. “My mom always enjoyed the nativity scene that was displayed in front of the hospital, so when I heard about the restoration of the nativity, I knew this project was the perfect way to make a donation in memory of her.”
Although all of the figurines are accounted for, many need of tender loving care to be in tip-top shape.
“I was originally a little over zealous and wanted to put the nativity up right away, but after careful thought and consideration, we decided it would better to put the effort into restoring the nativity scene before it goes on display,” said Blackwell. “I just feel that it is really good to be able to do something from the hospital perspective that can be Christ-centered. There’s not enough of that in the world today.”
The hospital maintenance crew has been working to begin the restoration in hopes to have ready the 2017 Christmas season. Due to the age of the set and extensive wear and tear, many of the figurines have holes that need patched and cracks in the paint that need retouched. The maintenance crew, consisting of Joel Hutchcraft, Teddy Brown, Rex Meek and Kerri Brinlee are working on this.
The crew will be able to complete the majority of the restoration, they are looking for volunteers to assist hospital Sarah Detter, Jennifer Mickle and Melissa Scheck in the repainting and detailing of the statues.
“It has been a joy to work on this project because it is going to bring a lot of happiness back to our community,” said Hutchcraft. “A lot of people have said that they miss seeing it out on the front lawn, and it’s going to be a great to see it set up again.”
Aside from the restoration, the hospital’s maintenance crew will be taking the lead on the set up of the nativity scene each year.
“The hospital’s initiative to bring the nativity scene back to life is not only important for us now, but also for the generations to come,” said Michelle Moshier, Clara Barton Hospital Foundation Executive Director. “Any donation to help cover the costs of the supplies needed to repair fiber glass, paint and to secure lighting would be greatly appreciated.”
HOISINGTON — Hoisington council member Karen Van Brimmer wanted to know more about a proposed upgrade to Hoisington’s holiday star decorations. She asked for the item to be moved from the consent agenda to the regular agenda, opening a discussion that touched on the possibility of more volunteer involvement with the project.
Essentially, the proposal outlined the second phase in a project spearheaded by the Hoisington Chamber of Commerce to not only replace lights, but to upgrade efficiency by switching from costly incandescent lighting to newer LED lighting for the city’s Main Street display. All 92 of the stars Hoisington decorates its business district with during the holiday season will need to have existing lights removed, the surfaces sandblasted and painted, and new lights attached.
Hoisington Chamber of Commerce Director Jessica Homolka addressed the issue of purchasing the new lights in her letter to the city, noting that the Chamber had worked out a deal to purchase all the wiring and lights for $3,600. They requested $1,800 from TGF to go toward that purchase.
Council member Michael Aylward asked if volunteers with the Chamber would also input labor into the project. At first, City Manager Jonathan Mitchell indicated that would not be an option, but later in the discussion, when council member Robert Bruce suggested Chamber volunteers be asked to remove old lights, and city personnel rewire and string the LED lights on the stars, the rest of the council favored the idea, and Mitchell indicated that perhaps the Chamber might consider that. What was unclear was where the stripping could be done, with little space available at the city shop for volunteers to work.
Mitchell added that a key community member may be willing to sandblast and powder coat the stars later this fall, and that he would approach in the near future about assisting in the project.
“It’s an exciting thing, with the LED lights being redone downtown, with the Nativity scene being redone by the hospital, and this,” Mitchell said. “It’s really kind of cool that the community is jumping behind this effort.”
Last year, Hoisington made the switch from incandescent to LED Christmas lighting to outline storefronts along Main Street. That first phase has been completed, and the result was both uniform and pleasing.
With nearly $50,000 available in the TGF, Aylward made the motion to approve the Chamber’s request for $1,800, and it was approved unanimously.
Budget priorities set
Mitchell summarized a report from the city staff concerning findings from forms submitted by the governing body concerning to priorities for the 2018 budget.
The top priority is to maintain financial stability, followed by maintaining streets and infrastructure. Paying for it should be done with little to no increase in property taxes, something members indicated they are most resistant to. They prefer to fund city operations first and foremost, and will continue to fund the Hoisington Chamber of Commerce second, they also indicated.
Current staffing levels should be maintained, followed by initiatives laid out in order of importance: fixing streets, cutting down on blight, developing a fire district, sidewalks, and making improvements to city parks to include new security equipment.
Beginning next week, Mitchell announced a schedule of budget meetings, June 17, 19 and 24, where the council will refine a budget to meet these expectations.
City manager’s report
During his administrative report, Mitchell admitted he hadn’t adequately described a proposal from the Hoisington Rec Commission concerning an opportunity to bring regional baseball and softball tournaments to Hoisington at the last meeting. Gary Boxberger spoke with Mitchell in June, sharing that it has been suggested Hoisington’s ball fields may be an ideal place to hold regional tournaments, but in order to receive serious consideration, something needs to be done to decrease traffic in the park, add new parking places, and make it safer for children. He proposed eliminating the driveway at the north end of the ball fields and planting grass there. He requested the council indicate its support so he could research funding and organize volunteers for the effort. Mitchell promised to distribute copies drawings of the proposed changes for the council’s consideration. Council member Chris Smith was in favor.
“There have been people looking at our parks, and they really like them,” she said. “If we can do this, it will bring extra business into town with these tournaments.”
Other topics touched on in Mitchell’s report included the announcement that all Hoisington Land Bank owned lots at McKenna Meadows subdivision have been spoken for. CDBG surveys continue to trickle in and individuals willing to help wrap up survey taking efforts should talk get in touch with the city staff. July 4 block party applicants did a good job this year with cleanup, and early closings of the city pool as a result of scheduled lifeguards’ illnesses have been addressed.
Finally, Mitchell asked the council to consider a proposal from Hoisington Veterinary Clinic, owned and operated by his wife, Dr. Lindsey Mitchell. Her clinic works closely with local rescues, and they have identified a location south of her clinic that could be utilized for a community dog park. In order to make that possible, funds will need to be raised, and one suggestion is to hold a “Dog Days of Summer” event at the city pool. Dog owners could bring their dog for a dip in the pool, after it has closed to the public for the season. Hoisington holds a cardboard boat event there, and Mitchell suggested the dog event could follow the boating.
The council was receptive to the idea, and it will be taken up again at a future meeting.
Executive session requested
The council requested an executive session to discuss two matters concerning potential contracts or agreements pursuant to the consultation with an attorney on matters that would be deemed privileged in an attorney-client relationship. The session began at 7:40 p.m. and the council returned to regular session at 7:55 p.m., taking no action.
The next regular meeting will be held at 7 p.m. on Monday, July 24. The council will also meet for three budget meetings: 6 p.m. on July 17, 19 and 24.