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Brick Officials Face Scrutiny Over $5K Payment to Replace Tree in Front of Town Hall

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A tree in front of the Brick Township municipal building that is being replaced, Sept. 2019. (Photo: Daniel Nee)
A tree in front of the Brick Township municipal building that is being replaced, Sept. 2019. (Photo: Daniel Nee)

The good news: Brick’s Christmas lights will never look better. The bad news: it cost $5,000 for a new tree to string them across.

The township council voted to pay $5,000 for a new tree to replace the existing evergreen in front of the municipal complex on Chambers Bridge Road. There is nothing wrong, per se, with the current tree. It does not have a disease nor is it carrying any fungus, and it isn’t interfering with electrical wires. But its aesthetics are poor and it should be replaced, officials decided.

A tree in front of the Brick Township municipal building that is being replaced, Sept. 2019. (Photo: Daniel Nee)
A tree in front of the Brick Township municipal building that is being replaced, Sept. 2019. (Photo: Daniel Nee)
A tree in front of the Brick Township municipal building that is being replaced, Sept. 2019. (Photo: Daniel Nee)
A tree in front of the Brick Township municipal building that is being replaced, Sept. 2019. (Photo: Daniel Nee)

The $5,000 cost for a new tree was questioned by Councilman James Fozman, the governing body’s lone Republican, though he said he reluctantly voted in favor of passing the bill list, of which the tree payment was one of hundreds of invoices the township was paying in a single vote.

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“Somebody trimmed the tree, and they trimmed it higher than normal,” said Fozman. “Some people don’t like the way the lights look on the tree now. That’s what it is.”

Council President Andrea Zapcic, however, said the decision to replace what is likely Brick’s most symbolic tree was not made lightly. It was examined by the Parks Department and recommended to be replaced by a committee of council members. The tree, she said, was in poor condition even though it was not in danger of dying or falling. Especially since it is used for public events such as the annual Christmas tree lighting, officials wanted to ensure there would be no future issues, she said.

“It’s not diseased, but when the lights go on it, the branches don’t even hold the lights up anymore,” Zapcic said. “It’s all sagging.”

Opinions from members of the public on the replacement were mixed.

“You ran on a platform of eliminating waste and mismanagement. To replace a tree when there’s nothing wrong with it – why is it being done?” asked resident Sam Foster. “Spend that money on something more important, maybe bulletproof vests for the police department.”

Resident Melanie Briggs said the tree probably should be replaced, but there may have been other ways to approach it.

“As far as the tree goes, it looks pathetic at Christmas time,” she said. “At one time, we did fundraising in this town for things, and I think that game has been forgotten. There are a lot of ways we could have raised the money rather than take it out of the budget.”

Regardless of one’s opinion on whether the money should have been spent, a new tree will be arriving soon.

Business Administrator Joanne Bergin said the $5,000 covers the cost to supply, deliver and plant a 20-foot tall Norway spruce which includes the need for a tee spade, a piece of machinery to pull the spoil out in order to plant the tree properly.

“Our parks department will remove the existing tree,” she said.

Bergin said the tree is expected to arrive in October, so it will be planted and ready for the holiday season.