The controversy of the $5,000 purchase of a more aesthetically-pleasing tree to grace the front of Brick’s municipal complex has ended with a number of businesses stepping in to pay the bill.
Mayor John Ducey announced Thursday afternoon that several businesses, mainly professional contractors who perform work for the township, will donate the money required to replace the sagging evergreen with a new, 20-foot tall Norway spruce.
The businesses donating are: Adams Rehmann & Heggan Associates; CME Associates; Rainone Coughlin Minchello; Starkey, Kelly, Kenneally, Cunningham & Turnbach, and Weiner Law Group LLP.
“Several local businesses have graciously volunteered to make donations to a Christmas Tree Fund that will completely pay for the cost of replacing the tree,” Ducey said. “This means that there will be zero cost to Brick taxpayers for the new tree because the privately donated funds will cover the entire cost.”
Ducey, in a statement, said once township officials determined that the current tree should no longer be the township’s official Christmas tree, the administration explored several options, including accepting a donated tree and moving the existing tree to another location. The most economically feasible solution, he said, was to replace the tree with a mature tree that “will serve as a more vibrant representative of our community during the holiday season.”
“Over the past several years, the existing tree has degraded,” said Ducey. “While the tree is not diseased, several branches had died and others had begun to sag. As such, we were receiving complaints about the tree’s appearance. We made several attempts to revitalize the tree and we trimmed dead and sagging branches in hope of improving the tree’s appearance. Those efforts unfortunately were not successful.”
The plan to replace the tree drew scrutiny from Councilman Jim Fozman, the lone Republican on the governing body, after he questioned the $5,000 invoice that appeared in the routine bill list approved by the council at each meeting. Ultimately, however, the council voted unanimously to approve the bill list, which included the payment for the new tree.
Business Administrator Joanne Bergin said the new tree will be planted in October, in time for the upcoming holiday season, and township parks crews will remove the old tree.