Conway’s famous Christmas Tree will start going up around the 17th of this month.
The tree was bought last year for about $130,000 using money from an advertising and promotion commission fund that can only be spent on projects that further tourism and special events. It was made by Get Lit LLC, formerly of Springdale, and advertised as the largest in the state, and maybe largest in the Midwest.
Over the summer, Get Lit was supposed to be fixing the tree, which had periodic electrical problems in its first year. Instead, the company apparently went quietly out of business and left the tree in an unlocked 18-wheeler trailer, "[i]ts shortcomings, failures, deficiencies, and problems" unaddressed, as Mayor Tab Townsell put it in an email in August. "It is seemingly even a little worse for wear from its pointless sojourn back to northwest Arkansas. Contrary to every hope of this business transaction, Get Lit neither delivered a tree that worked as promised or delivered on its promise to fix the tree. I feel this is failure is a full breach of the promises made in the purchase of the tree and thereafter. I have asked the City Attorney’s Office to pursue any and all remedies."
City Attorney Chuck Clawson said there is reason to think a lawsuit against Get Lit for breach of contract would succeed because the tree didn’t perform as promised, and for other reasons. Clawson said he was waiting for the go-ahead from city hall.
A small group of city parks employees have been working on the tree over the past few months. They’ve had to build a few new "branches" and replace some brackets that were missing when the tree was brought back from Springdale. Luckily, city parks director Steve Ibbotson said, the company that Get Lit bought the tree’s lights and greenery from is still in business and the city was able to get replacements.
Some of the tree’s problems in its first year had to do with the way Get Lit had the tree’s wiring installed, according to Jack Bell, the city’s chief of staff. The wiring was inside the steel scaffolding structure of the tree and came out through holes drilled into the metal tubing. These holes weren’t de-burred, and the sharp metal cut into the wiring’s insulation, causing short circuits. This has been fixed, Bell said, and the lights all worked when they were tested.
Ibbotson said the city parks department has spent between $3,000 and $4,000 getting the tree back in shape for this Christmas season. In total, the city has spent about $6,500, on repairs and upgrades for the tree, according to invoices from city hall.