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Community Christmas Tree to be lit this year

Posted on September 18, 2019

Advertising and promotion commission commits $30,000 toward the project

By Tia Lyons
Staff Writer

The Community Christmas Tree will light up the night sky in El Dorado for the 2019 holiday season.

Sherry Cross, a member of the committee who is raising money to restore the 200-foot tree, was brought to tears Tuesday by a unanimous vote from the El Dorado Advertising and Promotion Commission, which committed $30,000 from its reserve coffers to cover half of the budget estimate to bring a beloved holiday tradition back to El Dorado.

“And she’s crying,” Commissioner and El Dorado City Council member Dianne Hammond said immediately after the vote was taken.

“I was going to cry either way,” Cross exclaimed, drawing a laugh from commissioners.

The A&P commission convened a specially called meeting Tuesday, a week after the Christmas tree committee initially presented the funding request to the El Dorado Works Board.

The EWB administers the city’s one-cent sales tax that is geared toward economic development, municipal infrastructure improvement and quality-of-life projects.

Cross told EWB members Sept. 10 that she reached out to members of the community to assemble a committee that was interested in restoring the tree, which has not been lit since 2015.

Also known as the KTVE Christmas Tree, the lighting display first went up in the mid1960s and hovered over KTVE’s former studio on the 260-foot communications tower at 400 W. Main.

For nearly five decades, the television station made sure the tree went up each year and maintained the massive of heap of holiday lights and cables each year.

After KTVE moved its studio — first to 216 W. Main in 2009 and several weeks ago, to 715 N. West Ave. —, Shelli Cross, the owner of West Main building and no relation to Sherry Cross, stopped a crew from taking down the tree, saying at the time, “I just knew that when those lights came down, they weren’t going to go back up. We don’t need to lose that tree.”

For the next several years, Shelli Cross took on the expensive endeavor of putting up the tree.

The red-and-green lights had grown horribly faded and following the 2014 holiday season, the equipment failed an inspection and orders were issued to remove the tree.

Sherry Cross said the old equipment was scrapped.

She also said that shortly after she went to work in media sales for KTVE in April, she spoke with her bosses about the matter and she was encouraged to launch an effort to restore the tree.

With assistance from the El Dorado-Union County Chamber of Commerce, the group worked through the nonprofit El Dorado Pride Foundation, researching vendors and gathering estimates.

During the presentation before the EWB on Sept. 10, Christmas tree committee member and former Mayor Mike Dumas said the total cost was $59,740, which includes parts and installation.

Sherry Cross told board members that the committee had raised $30,000 and were seeking the other 50 percent.

Board members raised concerns regarding the lease between property owner Shelli Cross — Cross Property Management, LLC, — and American Tower Company, the owner of the tower.

The agreement allows for the continued use of the tower for the Christmas tree, starting this year and into perpetuity.

EWB members questioned the city’s rights in the lease and asked for a copy of the agreement to study the matter further.

The following day, EWB member Greg Downum suggested that the committee present the funding request to the A&P commission.

Once commissioners received word, they also began looking into the matter and consulted with City Attorney Henry Kinslow, who determined that:

• The grantor in the tower lease document, (Shelli) Cross, would need to give the city written assurance about “our” right to put lights on the tower and since the lease is filed in (Union County Circuit Court) records, the agreement would also need to be filed in the court so it would be legally binding (with) future owners if Cross ever sold the property.

• The request for matching funds should go to the A&P (commission) instead of the (El Dorado) Works Board.

Further, Hammond asked Kinslow if A&P money, which is generated by a 3 percent lodging tax, can be used for such a project on personal property.

Kinslow rendered a second legal opinion, saying that since the lights are not a permanent fixture on the tower or the West Main building, the commission should be able to support the endeavor.

“I was trying to get some clarification on some of the issues, some of the questions that I have been asked,” Hammond said Tuesday.

“We are the advertising and promotion commission … If this isn’t promotion, I don’t know what is,” Commissioner and El Dorado City council member Paul Choate said.

Sherry Cross said the purchase will include programmable, LED lighting, with 6,200 bulbs and 32, 200-foot light strings.

Commissioner Barbie Luther inquired about maintenance costs.

Dumas previously said the lights will eventually have to be replaced, adding that electricity is being donated to power the tree.

Sherry Cross said Tuesday that the LED lights are expected to last five or six years before they need replacing.

A&P commission chairman Barry Bagwell asked about the cost per bulb and Sherry Cross said she did not know.

She told the group that the committee already has a group of volunteers who will plug the lights into the tree strands and attach the stands to the electrical cables, adding that the work will take place at the Union County Fairgrounds.

KTVE engineers will install and take down the lights and several free options are available for storage, Sherry Cross said, adding that the lights will be wrapped around giant spools to help prevent them from “becoming disheveled.”

As outlined in the lease agreement between Cross Management and American Tower, the tree may hang from Nov. 15 until Jan. 15 — a period that allows the tree to be lit with other Christmas lights during the annual Downtown Holiday Lighting Ceremony on Nov. 21.

Sherry Cross previously explained that the tree will not reach the top of the tower, noting that the lights must sit 20 feet below the lowest antenna unit on the tower.

When A&P commissioners adjourned the special meeting Tuesday, Sherry Cross announced that the order had been placed to Jolt Lighting Company.

“By me placing the order today, that guaranteed delivery by Nov. 6,” she said, smiling.

Tia Lyons may be contacted at 870-862-6611 or