POSTED: Monday, March 23, 2009 - 7:25am
UPDATED: Wednesday, February 17, 2010 - 3:23pm
EL PASO--- Icon, symbol, whatever you want to call it, the star on Franklin Mountain has become the city's trademark.
But, in as little as one week, that star may go dark.
The Greater El Paso Chamber of Commerce has been footing the bill with donations, but now the economic crunch has forced leaders to make a tough decision.
They will not renew the lease, which is up at the end of the month.
"We would be missing part of El Paso, what El Paso's all about," said El Paso resident Juan Rosario. "The star, to me, has always symbolized arrival. It always meant to me, being home."
"A lot of people come from out-of-state to see it. It's talked about, it's made the national news," said resident Irene Beggs. "It'll be a sad time if that does occur."
"The star is a community icon. There's a lot of folks, including myself, interested in ensuring that it doesn't go dark," said County Commissioner Veronica Escobar, who put the issue on Monday's agenda.
Yet Escobar isn't so sure the county can take over operation of the star.
"It's hard to have a conversation about adding contributions when you're looking areas to cut," she said.
Keeping the star lit comes at a hefty price.
The chamber pays more than $45,000 to keep it shining year-round.
Most of that, isn't even paying for electricity.
"There's damage by the wind. Today's windy, so you can imagine the bulbs are moving back and forth, (plus) vandalism, " Escobar said.
The chamber's president already asked for help from the city back in January, to no avail.
Some El Pasoans think either of the local governments should take responsibility.
"Maybe some money should be appropriated from somewhere to support the project because I think it really stands for El Paso," Rosario said.
Escobar says with government budgets tightening, it's unlikely to happen.
"I don't think the county should manage it, but I think we should be part of the solution. And I think we should come to the table offering something," she said. "I don't know if that's in dollars, or other kind of assistance, I don't know what we can do but we should begin the dialogue for that."
But other El Pasoans think it should be up to the community to help.
" I think a lot of people should rally here in the city and keep it lit. Somehow, someway, we could come up with the funding," said Beggs.