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Community, HECO assure Kaimuki tree stays aglow


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POSTED: Friday, November 13, 2009

It took a little extra effort this year, but residents were happy to hear that the traditional Christmas lighting display in the shape of a tree will rise again in Kaimuki.

“;It's good,”; said Leonard Tam, a neighborhood board member who has led the effort to maintain the Christmas tree display since 2001.

After the city told the community that it could not put up the display in October, Mayor Mufi Hannemann released a statement yesterday saying Hawaiian Electric Co.'s employees have volunteered to do the job. HECO also volunteered in 2004 to install a new set of lights for the display.

The showpiece, a green-and-white string of lights in the shape of a Christmas tree on a 40-foot pole behind the Kaimuki Fire Station on Koko Head Avenue, is lighted every year at the end of the Kaimuki Christmas parade. The 25-year-old tradition continues on Dec. 3.

“;It's kind of been a beacon that can be seen from Hawaii Kai to Ewa Beach,”; said John Kobayashi, director of the Kaimuki Business and Professional Association.

He said his group had donated $3,500 for new lights and more durable components, including stainless-steel cables and rods, that will be used for the display this year.

In February the city took down the tree because the materials were corroded.

The city told the neighborhood board that it would cost $10,000 to install the tree and that it was not responsible for the work because it was not a city tree, Tam said.

“;This is a city tree,”; he said. Former Mayor Frank Fasi had said the city would display the tree if the community paid for the materials, he said.

City spokesman Bill Brennan said the $10,000 was an estimate for overtime and use of the equipment.

For Tam, saving the display has been a mission. In 2001 he found spare parts to keep the display. The next year, he found durable materials that could be left up year-round because the city said it would no longer take down the tree after the holiday.

Tam said the tree can be seen by people driving through Kaimuki on the H-1 freeway and should last for several more years.

“;I can see it from my house, from my living room,”; he said, “;so I look forward to seeing it every evening.”;