In light of concern over the price of a new 35-foot artificial Christmas tree recently purchased for Shain Park, a local business has stepped up with a $2,000 holiday donation.
Mauro Bianchini, of the Birmingham-based construction company Tri-Phase Construction, donated the funds to help the purchase the artificial Christmas tree, which costs just shy of $30,000.
The artificial tree will replace the Shain Park "climbing tree," located near the park's playground, which has served as the city's official Christmas tree for several years now. The city's holiday tree is lit during an official ceremony the evening before Thanksgiving.
According to Steve Quintal, chair of the Principal Shopping District's (PSD) Maintenance and Improvements Committee, Bianchini said he wanted to show his support for the new tree.
"He came to our committee and said that he supports the city and (the) PSD's beautification efforts, and he wanted to give something back," Quintal said.
The Birmingham City Commission approved the purchase of the tree at its Sept. 24 meeting on the reccomendation of Department of Public Services Director Lauren Wood.
"For many years, decorating the "climbing tree" has been challenging due to the (age) and decline of the health of the tree, including safety concerns," Wood writes in her memo to the commission. "It is very difficult to achieve the "wow" factor for the tree lighting ceremony."
The artificial tree from Christmas Lights, Etc. comes pre-strung with 15,000 LED lights, has a five-year warranty and is similar to those used at Macy's stores and Six Flags locations.
In total, the tree costs $29,223.78; half of that will be paid by the city while the other half will be paid by the PSD. According to Wood, Birmingham currently spends approximately $5,000-$6,000 on labor and materials to decorate the climbing tree for the holidays every year.
The cost of the tree drew criticism from several in the community.
"I don't think anything justifies spending $30,000 on an artificial tree in Shain Park," resident Dorothy Conrad said at the Sept. 24 city commission meeting.
In a comment on a Sept. 25 Patch story, user Karen agreed. "It makes Birmingham look so vain," she said. "So many other ways to spend that kind of money."
According to a press release from the PSD, other local businesses are encouraged to donate towards the purchase of the new tree. All supporters will be recognized on a sign near the tree, on the PSD's website, www.enjoybirmingham.com and on the PSD's Facebook page.
All those interested should contact John Heiney, PSD executive director, at 248-530-1200 to make a donation or for more information.