Fake tree becomes real issue

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Augusta commissioners might soon be considered the grinches who stole the city's traditional Christmas tree.

Augusta commissioners are debating whether to save money by purchasing an artificial Christmas tree for use at Augusta Common.  Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff
Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff
Augusta commissioners are debating whether to save money by purchasing an artificial Christmas tree for use at Augusta Common.

At a commission committee meeting Tuesday, City Administrator Fred Russell proposed that the city purchase a 35-foot manufactured tree for the annual tree lighting at Augusta Common, instead of buying a live tree each year. Commissioners voted to delay purchasing the $26,845 artificial tree until photographs are available.

"Fiscally, we should approve this purchase, though we recognize that the tradition is having a real one," Mr. Russell said in the committee meeting.

Purchasing a live tree costs the city $14,000 to $16,000 each year, Mr. Russell said.

The cost includes locating, harvesting, transporting, erecting and decorating the tree, said Rick Acree, the assistant director of Augusta's Public Services Department. More than 75 percent of the cost is for transporting the tree from the mountains of North Carolina to downtown Augusta, Mr. Acree said. Lighting the tree with incandescent lights is also costly, he said.

If the commissioners decide to purchase the artificial tree, energy-saving LED lights would be used, and the decorated tree would be transported from Syracuse, N.Y., Mr. Acree said.

Commissioner Corey Johnson said the money saved using a realistic-looking artificial tree could go toward other city events.

"I'd like to see us do more for New Year's," he said. "We can spend our dollars on that."

Commissioner Betty Beard said the city's tradition should not be broken for the sake of saving money.

"Christmas is very, very important to all of us," she said. "Everybody needs to know what a fresh tree looks like, and that's at the Commons."

Ms. Beard suggested that the commissioners conduct a survey of what kind of tree residents would prefer.

Reach Stephanie Toone at (706) 823-3215 or stephanie.toone@augustachronicle.com.


Tell us what you think. Should Augusta save money by putting an artificial tree on display this Christmas? Vote in our online poll.

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wofranklin 05/28/08 - 09:46 pm
If you want to see what the

If you want to see what the artificial tree will look like go to www.downtowndecorations.com . That is the company the new decorations for downtown came from.

peace4784 05/28/08 - 10:47 pm
what's the problem. the

what's the problem. the holiday is fake. why not display a fake tree. ignorance reins supreme in bible belt.

As It Is
As It Is 05/28/08 - 11:36 pm
A real tree is great, a fake

A real tree is great, a fake tree is more fiscally responsible. However, the real questions is wheter we can afford either. We are short 48 deputies, public safety funds are a joke, street lights are out all over the place, grass needs to be cut and trash picked up in many areas even though Masters week is over with. We can't even meet the true budget needs and yet we will spend this kind of money on a Christmas Tree. Don't get me wrong, I love the Christmas Tree and hope it is there and would prefer real but lets get real, our city just does not have the money. Look into other alternatives or turn this over to the local downtown businesses who benefit the most from the tree lighting and from customers coming to the area. If the mall can pay for their own tree then downtown businesses should be able to do the same. We are waisting tax dollars that we don't have.

captainscott 05/28/08 - 11:38 pm
Peace4784---Christmas is

Peace4784---Christmas is fake??? Oh no, are you telling me there really isn't a Santa??? GREAT....just when I was finishing up my last counseling session, now you've loaded me down with more depression, back to the shrink I go again.........
Recognize sarcasm when you hear it, sport, and get a life. Also, apparently bad grammar and punctuation "reigns supreme" in your world. I see eight errors in your award winning editorial. Hey, yet another point, if it won't overload you. Have you ever heard the saying " Who's the greater fool--the fool, or the one who follows the fool?" You say that ignorance reigns supreme in the Bible Belt, and yet you've chosen to live where, exactly???

janeyg 05/29/08 - 01:07 pm
point I am certain a

point I am certain a person would be willing to donate a real tree for the publicity. Has anyone even tried?


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