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Decking downtown comes at hefty price

In a sluggish economy, everyone has to make difficult choices, and with the holiday season close at hand the Town of South Boston is considering a cost-saving measure regarding the decoration of the Bradford pear trees lining Main Street.

Town Manager Ted Daniel told council at its Monday meeting the town would save approximately $10,000 in labor costs annually by wrapping the trunks of the trees with lights rather than placing the twinkling lights in the canopies.

It’s an expensive proposition to hire a professional and place the lights in the canopies of the trees with the use of a bucket truck, Daniel explained.

Another expense is the use of led light bulbs, which the town purchased last year, Daniel added.

Destination Downtown Executive Director Tamyra Vest told council Monday her board of directors approved the idea of wrapping the lights around the trunks of the trees, if the town needed to cut back and save money.

She and Destination Downtown President Wayne Fuller agreed the greatest cost comes in getting up to the canopies themselves to put in the lights.

The trees have to be trimmed every two years at a cost of $11,000, Fuller noted, while suggesting the town may look into replacing the Bradford pear trees with smaller ones more easily maintained. 

Council’s reactions were mixed, with Councilman Coleman Speece agreeing to give the town’s cost-saving idea a try for at least one holiday season.

“We ought to try and see how we like it,” said Speece.

“I like that look,” said Councilman W. R. “Bill” Snead regarding the twinkling lights in the canopies of the trees, while Vice-Mayor Ed Owens agreed with Fuller the town may need to take a look at removing the trees.

Public Works Director Alan Auld reminded council that removing approximately 50 Bradford pear trees is an expensive proposition.

Jayne Elliott, another member of Destination Downtown South Boston, said her first impression of downtown when she moved here in November of 2006 and saw the lit canopies was, “Wow.”

Elliott noted the intensive labor required in decorating the canopies as being a “major headache,” but she added wrapping the trunks of the trees serves a more practical purpose.

“Wrapping the base of the trees illuminates storefronts, and it increases ‘walkability’ and safety,” she explained.

“I think saving money is a good idea,” Elliott concluded.