Jonesboro businesses in 'holding pattern' over crepe myrtles

The possibility of Jonesboro's crepe myrtles being lit up for the holiday season was stuck in limbo this week as city officials sent out mixed signals about whether they were ready to begin decorating the trees.

City officials offered conflicting information on Wednesday about whether they had reached an agreement with the Norfolk Southern rail road company, whose rail line sits right next to the trees, to allow decorations and lights to go on the trees as soon as next week.

Tanama Tanning Salon Owner Jon Crane said, meanwhile, that he and owners of some of the town's other businesses are ready to adopt trees, for $150 per tree, to get at least some of them lit for the holidays. He added that there is a bump in the road without a decision from City Hall about what to do.

"I've got nearly 10 businesses on board who have said they would adopt a tree, but we're kinda in a holding pattern," said Crane, who added he is continuing to seek sponsors for trees. "My attitude is that we're ready to do this, so let's just light the damn trees."

The confusion over an agreement between city and railroad officials is the latest issue to keep hope of seeing the trees lit this year just out of reach. The rail road company owns the land the trees are on, so city officials need its blessing to put in a new, permanent power system near the trees. The previous power system had become unusable, city officials said earlier.

Joe Nettleton, Jonesboro's public works director, said officials from Norfolk Southern rail road had sent him a new contract, allowing for a permanent power system to light the trees every year during the holidays. He said that negated the need for an adopt-a-tree program.

"The city will begin decorating the trees next week when we get back from Thanksgiving," Nettleton wrote Wednesday in an e-mail to a reporter.

Jonesboro Mayor Luther Maddox, however, said Nettleton was operating on "bad information."

"There is no agreement in place with the rail road," the mayor said. "We will not be putting any decorations on the trees next week."

Maddox also said the tree adoptions "was just a rumor."

Maddox said City Attorney Steve Fincher reviewed the contract sent by Norfolk Southern, and it was "not a good deal for the city." Fincher could not be reached, Wednesday, for comment.

Meanwhile, residents will have to keep waiting to see if Jonesboro's crepe myrtles will see the light this holiday season.

Those interested, should call (770) 603-2997, for information about adopting a tree.