Umatilla’s community Christmas tree will remain next to Umatilla City Hall this year.

Some residents have questioned the council about why the former community tree — on Willamette in McNary — is no longer decorated during the holiday season.

“There had been a tradition in McNary where the large tree on Willamette was decorated as a community Christmas tree,” City Manager Bob Ward said. “The residents of McNary would like to see it decorated again.”

Lighting the McNary tree, however, cost the city about $2,000 a year because workers must rent equipment to reach the 60-foot peak. City maintenance director Roger Frances said the tallest of the city’s trucks reach about 20 feet.

“The tree was first a Kiwanis project,” Frances said. “It was about half the size it is now. I used to go up and replace the bulbs every years, and the tree just kept growing. We (Kiwanis) finally gave up — it got too big for us — and turned it back over to the city about 20 years ago.”

During construction of the new Umatilla Public Library/City Hall, a tree was planted at Victory Square Park, next to City Hall on Sixth Street, specifically to serve as a community Christmas tree. Council members opted to keep the city’s decorations and holiday celebration at that site.

“It’s a liability. If one of the city workers took a dive putting lights up there, it would be horrible,” Umatilla Mayor Pat Lafferty said of the McNary tree. “I think we should take that $2,000 to make a bigger, better celebration down here (at City Hall).”

The council also supported having students from McNary Heights Elementary decorate the tree next to the school’s sign on Columbia Boulevard.

“Thank you to the council and thank you to Bob Ward for the time spent,” Judy Simmons, a McNary resident, said during the meeting. “I am disappointed, but satisfied.”

The annual holiday tree lighting ceremony is set for 6 p.m. Dec. 1 at Victory Square Park.

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