Century Approves $40,000 For New Christmas Decorations In Late Vote

September 21, 2023

Late Tuesday evening, town of Century approved buying up to $40,000 in Christmas decorations before the end of the month.

The approval came about 9:40 p.m. during the public forum of a meeting that started at 7 p.m. Most of the public had left the meeting by that time, and the item was not on the agenda for consideration.

Superintendent Kevin Merchant asked the council for direction on ordering 48 lighted Christmas decorations for 48 utility poles along North Century Boulevard.

“If you want to spend say $10,000 by the end of the month on Christmas lights, Kevin can do it,” Town Clerk Leslie Howington said. “We have like $300,000 to spend by September 30.” She was referring to American Rescue Plan funds the town has that will otherwise roll over to the next fiscal year on October 1.

“I just don’t want to hang the same crap on the poles this year,” Merchant said. “We get talked about bad out there when we are hanging this stuff up.”

“Right, right, I’m with you,” Town Council President Dynette Lewis replied.

It was suggested that decoration designs be taken to each council member’s home to poll them on their favorites.

Later, interim Mayor Luis Gomez, Jr. said, “We can get it to their houses, everybody knows where they live”.

“We can’t get them to make a decision in the shade,” Howington interjected, referring to Sunshine Law requirements that the council make decisions in an open meeting. “We need you to empower somebody to make a decision.”

“Why can’t we say that we trust staff to choose some really nice decorations?”, council member Alicia Johnson asked.

“Listen, we’ve reached out to a thousand people,” Howington responded when asked about the town’s required bid process. When asked for the 1,000 bid requests, Howington replied, “I may need to amend my statement.”

On a motion by Johnson, the council voted 5-0 to spend up to $40,000 on decorations.

The town’s current 24-inch wreath pole decorations were purchased in 2012 for $15,047 along with bows from a local business for $3,918. Another $2,734 was spent to have Gulf Power wire three poles that previously did not have electricity for three of the wreaths.

Previous Discussions

For years, the council has discussed options upgrading aging pole decorations along North Century Boulevard. A December 2021 discussion ended after then-council member James Lewis disagreed.

“It’ll be great to have the city lit up and looking beautiful,” Smith said. “But we don’t need to be spending a lot of money on that. There’s way too much in Century that needs to be fixed up…getting more businesses in the town, and as the town continues to grow, then we can have the finances to make the town look good. What’s the point in making it lit up when there’s not a whole lot around to be seen?”

In December 2022,  the town discussed using ARPA funds for Christmas decorations and took no action.  In June 2023, the council approved spending up to $1,800 for new garland for a Santa Claus decoration that stands annually in the Nadine McCaw Park. Also in June, they discussed $33,600 for new pole decorations but did not take a vote.

Pictured top: Century’s Christmas light display at Nadine McCaw Park. Pictured top inset and below: The other major decorations in the park are old, donated by the City of Pensacola years ago. Upgrading these decorations was not part of $40,000 approved Tuesday night. NorthEscambia.com file photos, click to enlarge.


30 Responses to “Century Approves $40,000 For New Christmas Decorations In Late Vote”

  1. Santa on September 23rd, 2023 2:16 pm

    Ho ho ho fourty thousand dollars could be better used the elves and the reindeer think century needs to do better prioritizing their money and lights don’t really help anyone use it for the needy people who can’t afford electric or rent or feed children with it.

  2. ThePreachersWife on September 23rd, 2023 9:45 am

    I feel sorry for the people who live in Century. How embarrassing. There is no doubt that the lights will be pretty, but it is not wise spending. And the “logic” behind the decision…I doubt people talk about the current Century Christmas lights. The quoted conversation certainly lacks professionalism.
    We live in Davisville, but have a Century mailing address. Let’s start a campaign to have our addresses in that area changed to Walnut Hill. Because of the current leadership, it’s rough being associated with the town of Century.

  3. On my way on September 23rd, 2023 8:50 am


    I’ve cancelled my shopping in Ensley and Pea Ridge. This holiday season, I’m getting my gifts in Century.

  4. User D on September 22nd, 2023 7:49 pm

    3 times I have requested the city of Century to fill in the pot holes on my dirt road & 3 times a work request was put in – it’s been 2 years – $50 worth of gravel & I see $40,000 for Xmas decorations . What an absolute disgrace the city of Century is .

  5. EMD on September 22nd, 2023 9:01 am

    STUPID ! ! !

  6. Mike Ashmore on September 22nd, 2023 8:07 am

    A 290% increase in taxes to buy $40,000-worth of new Christmas decorations. Makes about as much sense as anything any government does.

  7. Graham on September 22nd, 2023 7:30 am

    “Century Town Council does something foolish and irresponsible.” In other news, “earth expected to continue rotation,” and “water discovered to be wet.”

  8. Consider This on September 22nd, 2023 3:14 am

    The Sunshine Law does not require boards to
    consider only those matters on a published agenda.
    “[W]hether to impose a requirement that restricts
    every relevant commission or board from considering
    matters not on an agenda is a policy decision to be
    made by the legislature.” Law and Information
    Services, Inc. v. City of Riviera Beach, 670 So. 2d
    1014, 1016 (Fla. 4th DCA 1996). And see Grapski v.
    City of Alachua, 31 So. 3d 193 (Fla. 1st DCA 2010).

  9. RaD on September 21st, 2023 7:32 pm

    Pretty Positive you can’t vote on a non-emergency item that was not on the agenda and I think Xmas Lights qualify.
    The City Council continues to fail to follow the State Laws regarding how to conduct City business. Shouldn’t someone at the State or at least the County level be paying attention to this or do they expect to be notified.

  10. Chelleepea on September 21st, 2023 7:31 pm

    Although I’m not for spending ARPA money for this……when you get a lump sum of money you should spend it on bigger projects but I am for new Christmas lights. Ppl will drive out of their way to see good Christmas lights. The more traffic we bring through this town, better it is for businesses. Well in this case convenience stores but it can generate other businesses.

  11. Well on September 21st, 2023 5:48 pm

    $40,000 of $300,000.
    260,000 to go.

  12. BIG JOHN on September 21st, 2023 4:10 pm


  13. HO HO HO on September 21st, 2023 2:42 pm

    The town should also decorate the sewage lift station and the temporary pump on Highway 29. Maybe some lights will improve the first impression people get when they drive into Century. Also, maybe if people stop complaining on Facebook and used that time to call their County and State Representatives or the State Attorney’s office something would be done to hold the Council responsible for their actions. Nothing will change until you make it change!

  14. Bahumbugger on September 21st, 2023 2:07 pm

    Sounds like one of those late night slip ‘em through and run kind of backroom deals.

    I’ve read the requirements for ARPA spending. This does not seem to qualify.

  15. George on September 21st, 2023 2:01 pm

    And ladies

  16. George on September 21st, 2023 2:00 pm

    God bless you merry gentlemen. I love Christmas lights merry Christmas everyone.

  17. Citizen on September 21st, 2023 1:22 pm

    I look forward to seeing new bright colorful lights for the holidays coming through here. I hope they are multicolored and bright and durable. Thanks Kevin and Century staff and council.
    I love this time of year as the seasons change.

  18. Carola on September 21st, 2023 11:03 am

    Amazing! 5-0 vote for new Christmas lights.
    That’s like buying a $600.00 Dyson vacuumn for 1,
    One 2×3 rug, the one and only rug in your house.
    Bring in some common sense, please.

  19. Ed on September 21st, 2023 9:51 am

    This is the dumbed mayor and counsil this town has ever had.Broinge been closed for almost 4 years roads falling apart employees can’t or want patch pot holes .Bur Gomez and his puppets spend 40000 on Christmas decorations . DUMMy

  20. Mike on September 21st, 2023 9:14 am

    I tried to think of what this town management looks like, but it only brought silly comparisons to mind. The closest is probably akin to handing a group of adolescents a bag of cash and telling them to “have fun” and then lamenting the poor decisions they make. Clearly this group is not qualified to run the town and should concede that fact just as the new Mayor has—“I’m in over my head…”. It’s time to recognize the obvious and dissolve the charter and hand management over to the Century Garden Club.

  21. new to Century on September 21st, 2023 8:49 am

    I think the folks that have to look at the Christmas decorations need to make the decision what is put in front of their homes or across the street or at the corner where they enter Hwy 29 to go to work and come home everyday.

    Also, there is a lack of maintenance that has caused damage to property around Century other than on Jefferson/Church/Front Streets. There is an easement to my property that has not been cleaned in over three years. Use some of the remaining funds to get Century cleaned up rather then just dressed up.

  22. tg on September 21st, 2023 8:47 am

    Just when you think they are broke they put a little icing on the cake.

  23. Southend Lurker on September 21st, 2023 8:45 am

    Just gonna leave this right here in regards to ARPA funds….

    What are eligible uses for funding?
    Municipalities are granted flexibility in choosing how they will spend their ARPA funds. As outlined in the Final Rule, funding must fit into one of the following categories:

    Responding to the public health and negative economic impacts of the pandemic  
    Providing premium pay to essential workers 
    Providing government services to the extent of revenue loss due to the pandemic 
    Making necessary investments in water, sewer, and broadband infrastructure  
    Disaster Relief (see more in ARPA Flex section)
    Surface transportation (see more in ARPA Flex section)
    Community development Block Grants (see more in ARPA Flex section)
    Responding to the public health and negative economic impacts of the pandemic includes:

    Utilizing funding for programs or services in response to those impacted by the negative health and economic impacts of the pandemic, including the general public
    Providing funding that can be utilized by households, populations, or classes that experienced pandemic impacts, including disproportionately impacted communities
    Responding with funds for COVID-19 mitigation and prevention, medical expenses, behavioral healthcare, and preventing and responding to violence
    Providing additional assistance to households, small businesses, and nonprofits
    Granting assistance to impacted industries, including tourism, travel, and hospitality that faced inordinate impacts due to the pandemic
    Funding to provide government services to the extent of revenue loss due to the pandemic includes:

    Permitting spending of a standard allowance of up to $10 million, not to exceed a city’s award amount, during the program, or
    Calculating a municipality’s specific revenue loss using a formula set forth by Treasury
    The commitment to make investments in water, sewer, and broadband infrastructure includes:

    Allowing funding for improving access to clean drinking water, supporting vital wastewater and stormwater infrastructure, and expanding affordable access to broadband
    Granting access to a broad range of water and sewer projects, including the EPA’s Clean Water State Revolving Fund, EPA’s Drinking Water State Revolving Fund, and certain additional projects, including a wide set of lead remediation, stormwater infrastructure, and aid for private wells and septic units
    Providing funds for high-speed broadband infrastructure in areas of need, including those without access to high speeds, affordable options, or where connections are unreliable
    All SLFRF funding must fit into one of the general categories listed above. The Final Rule provides further detail on the allowances for funding and information on compliance responsibilities. However, the Final Rule provides a non-exhaustive list of uses and municipalities may use their funds in any way that responds directly to a pandemic impact. Spending for each category has its own distinct reporting requirements.

  24. SMW on September 21st, 2023 8:31 am

    I am sorry but our road needs paving before Christmas decorations!!! SMH at all the stupidity!!!

  25. Willis on September 21st, 2023 8:13 am

    Hey at least the pig will look better.

  26. Vicky on September 21st, 2023 8:02 am

    I agree there are bridges and roads needs to be fixed and important things but they spend $40,000 on Christmas lights in a broke town and people really don’t care about put the money where the town needs it

  27. Reader on September 21st, 2023 7:38 am

    So they raise taxes by almost 300% and buy Christmas decorations in a late night meeting. They are out of control. Why was it not on the agenda? Why do it in 10 days? Irresponsible and out of control dereliction of civic duty

  28. CF on September 21st, 2023 7:33 am

    The broke little town that can’t. Now spending up to 40K on non essential items. What a waste.

  29. JJ on September 21st, 2023 5:26 am

    $40k voted 5-0 on a NON AGENDA ITEM.
    Maybe a LIVE Christmas tree planted in front of town hall be best investment.Appearsthat vote is illegal by state law.
    What a crooked table in Century.
    Plant a tree and move on.

  30. Jason on September 21st, 2023 1:19 am

    I seriously doubt that funds from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) were intended to be used to buy “Christmas Decor”. ARPA funds were meant to offer premium pay to essential workers; to off-set lost revenue due to Pandemic; and to make necessary investments in water, sewer, and broadband infrastructure. Funds were also used to help prevent evictions, and to assist with paying housing & utility expenses of those with low-income; as well as to improve “public safety” and to aid children catch-up on unfinished learning.

    Has anyone bothered to check and verify if this expenditure on “Christmas Decor” is an appropriate expenditure of ARPA funds?

    There are so many other higher priority needs —- meeting the intent of the ARPA funds — that should be dealt with prior to Century making this questionable purchase of “Christmas Decor”.