By Greg Wilson/Publisher, The Anderson Observer
When Anderson County Council approved the purchase the 28-foot Majestic Mountain Pine artificial Christmas tree last year, there were more than a few wondering if the news was good tidings of great joy.
Some argued in favor of planting another live tree, something to replace the non-traditional magnolia tree which was dying on the town square after being damaged by an ice storm. But experts were united that the land in front of the new courthouse was not fertile soil for a live tree to flourish.
The other option was to buy a cut live tree and haul it to the square every holiday season. The cost of buying, transporting and hauling away a comparably side live tree would have been roughly $5,000 a year, plus the cost of lights and decorations (which though not reoccurring, is costly).
Added to the annual cost is a two week of labor costs to the county, since traditionally it has taken a week to set up and a week to take down a cut live tree on the square, including the time to decorate and undecorated the tree. The price tag based on needed personnel totals $7,000.
So the annual costs of a cut live tree in the 25-30-foot range would have cost the county, assuming costs remain constant (which is unlikely), roughly $12,000 per year.
Instead, the county purchased a 28-foot Majestic Mountain Pine, fully decorated and lighted artificial tree for $25,000 last year. That tree, which has been wildly popular with citizens, is expected to deck the downtown halls for close to two decades.
The cost of setting up and taking down the artificial tree, something that takes less than two days to set up and two days to set down, 12 days less than a cut live tree, bringing labor costs of only $600 to the county.
As a result, the purchase of the artificial tree will save Anderson County more than $180,000 over the next two decades. Based on current pricing and labor rates, the total cost of a cut live tree, including purchase, transportation and all labor costs, would total $240,000 over the next 20 years.
The cost, including labor and maintenance and updates for the current artificial tree (including a planned upgrade), will total less than $60,000.
This does not include the increased traffic downtown from the visitors, many of whom come to see the decorations and stay to eat downtown or visit Carolina Wren Park to ice skate.
Added to the huge financial benefit is the fact that folks seem to really, really like the current tree. People drive downtown to talk family pictures in front of it, people have been married in front of it, kids and others have made winter scarves, hats and gloves and hung them on the tree for our area’s needy. It also really does dress up the center of downtown in the best possible way.
Call it the gift that keeps on giving, thanks to so forward thinking by leadership in Anderson County.
So if you see you council representative, thank them. And thank Anderson County Administrator Rusty Burns, who loves Christmas perhaps as much as I do, and I start listening to holiday tunes in late summer. It was his vision and research that led to the path to purchase the tree.
And if you want to shoot the family photo in front of the tree downtown, you still have more than a week to do so.