Augusta commissioners must have heard that Columbia County politely entertained a presentation from a Florida company wanting to sell a $150,000 fake Christmas tree.
No one is suggesting Columbia County actually buy such a tree, and even the early speculation focused only on the possibility of private donations being sought to pay for such a monstrosity.
But now Augusta commissioners are looking into buying a $26,000 fake tree to use for their Christmas festivities each year, instead of trucking in a big live tree from North Carolina.
As chairman of Columbia County's annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony, I have more than a passing interest in this topic.
Just like Augusta, we've always hung our lights on a real tree. Augusta's is much bigger - 35 or 40 feet. Ours is about 20 feet tall.
But Augusta buys a new one each year, at $14,000 to $16,000 a pop. They cut it down in North Carolina, haul it here, prop it up at Augusta Common and haul it off after the holidays.
In contrast, Columbia County's live trees both were donated by George Fuller of Preferred Landscaping, a certified Great American. He donated the first one beside the Justice Center, and then donated another one and planted it next to the amphitheater when we moved the tree-lighting ceremony there.
All we had to buy were the lights, and we paid for them and other expenses of the ceremony with donations from the community (thank you very much).
We've lit an official Columbia County tree for seven years. The total cost to taxpayers has been negligible - just the expense of employees helping with planning and setup, as they do with other events.
In that same number of years, the cost to taxpayers for Augusta's trucked-in trees would be in the neighborhood of $100,000.
To me, then, they'd be better off to buy that artificial tree, a one-time cost that would pay for itself in just a couple of years.
Or find a guy like George Fuller to donate a tree and plant it somewhere so it can be reused each year. For us, that idea has paid for itself over and over again.
Of course, having said all this, Columbia County's tree-lighting committee also has looked into the idea of buying an artificial tree - mostly because it could be bigger and brighter.
Personally, I hate artificial trees. But a big, bright tree could be put anywhere we want it and would be far more visible to motorists passing through Evans.
What do you think?
Speaking of such festivities, I was thrilled with last weekend's eighth annual Red, White and Blue Veterans Celebration.
I've heard from a couple of folks that our sound system wasn't loud enough. That's certainly an issue for an outdoor venue with so many people spread out over such a large area. But we'll work on doing better next year.
Otherwise? Awesome. Many thanks to the folks at Fort Gordon for providing the color guard and the U.S. Army Signal Corps Band, and to Brig. Gen. Jeff Foley and U.S. Rep. Paul Broun for continuing the tradition of the fort's commanding general and the sitting congressman speaking here on Memorial Day weekend.
Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to barry.paschal at newstimesonline.com.
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