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Tempest in a tree stand

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This year's Hillsville Christmas tree on the courthouse lawn is short lived.

By Christopher Brooke, Reporter

HILLSVILLE — The latest dust-up between Carroll County and Hillsville is all tied up with a Christmas bow. Two days after Hillsville held its annual Christmas tree lighting, county officials insisted the town's artificial tree on the history county courthouse lawn had to be removed by the town. So at about 3:30 p.m. on Monday, town workers took the tree down. This even as Hillsville and Carroll continue to wrestle with longstanding issues such as water and sewer billing disagreements and the possibility of annexation for the commercial area at the Interstate 77-U.S. 58 interchange. County Administrator Gary Larrowe explained Monday that guy-wires stabilizing the town's Christmas tree were a safety hazard in the middle of the concrete walkway to the courthouse. So, he asked Town Manager Larry South to have the tree taken down. The county has no animosity about a Christmas tree, he stressed. "It was a safety issue." Larrowe expressed disappointment in the situation, and pointed to several e-mails that he had sent to South over a year's time on the subject of the Christmas tree. County workers had planted a live pine tree for use for the holidays, at the suggestion of the Courthouse Preservation Committee, the county administrator said. "Also, I suspect there will be a Christmas tree," Larrowe wrote in an e-mail Nov. 25. "As we discussed last year, we have a live tree and would expect it to be used on the courthouse lawn." That this was ignored by the town also makes the Christmas tree a "respect" issue, the county administrator told The Gazette. "I had irate board members," Larrowe said. For his part, South said Tuesday that it was an unfortunate misunderstanding. "They've solved that crisis — they can move on to the next one," he said. "If there was a misunderstanding on my part, I apologize." South said he had shared communications from the county with the committee that puts on the tree lighting. Nobody said they couldn't put up the town tree, he said. It's over, South said. He hopes that the next time the county and town can work together on issues for the good of citizens, that the two governments will use common sense.