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PAXTON — Despite liability concerns that arose after Paxton’s downtown Christmas tree was toppled by the wind in December, the Paxton City Council does not intend to end the more than 60-year tradition of installing the tree at the intersection of Market and State streets.
The item appeared on the agenda for Monday night’s meeting, prompting an appearance by several members of the Paxton Service Club, which organizes the installation of the tree each year.
Mayor Bill Ingold said he had been told by an employee of Eastern Illini Electric Cooperative, which typically installs the tree, that liability concerns going forward might curtail EIEC employees from participating in the process.
The company has a special “digger” truck dedicated to lifting up, cutting off and transporting a tree from a resident’s yard who has agreed to donate it.
This year’s tree was especially large, which led to difficulty hauling it to the downtown site. But when fierce straight-line winds before Christmas blew the tree down, it caused about $1,000 in damage to a manhole in the center of the street where the tree is anchored.
Street department Superintendent Randy Swan said the city has no equipment that would allow city employees to fetch the tree themselves.
Ingold said perhaps the city would have to consider using a much smaller tree which neighboring Gibson City does. He said it was important to discuss the matter now and not have to “scramble” in November to come up with an alternative plan.
No EIEC representative attended the meeting.
Meanwhile, Service Club member Judith Ondercho reminded those present that the Christmas tree is a three-way project involving the city, the utility and the club. She said she thinks residents should be aware there are talks ongoing about changing anything.
The matter will be discussed by the council again.