GUSTINE - The holiday season is still months away, but Christmas was already on the mind of the Gustine City Council at a recent meeting.

Council members signed off on the purchase of new downtown Christmas decorations - and an artificial tree which will adorn the central intersection in the years to come - during a mid-February meeting.

With the current decorations showing their age and a provider offering a 40 percent post-Christmas discount, the council decided the time was right for a new holiday theme for downtown Gustine.

“The employees say they have been putting up these decorations for as long as they can remember,” said City Manager Doug Dunford. The decorations are starting to deteriorate past the point of practical use, Recreation Manager Tiffany Vitorino stated in her staff report on the matter.

The $34,457 purchase includes custom holiday banners for all downtown light poles, with lighted, snowflake style enhancers which illuminate the banners, as well as eight “mountain pine” street lines, four adorned with LED snowflakes and four featuring bows.

And, of course, the artificial tree - which will replace the natural tree selected each holiday season to adorn downtown Gustine as the centerpiece of its Christmas theme. The tree will stand 22 feet tall, which the council was told is comparable to the natural trees which have graced the intersection.

Council members were enthusiastic about the purchase.

“I like the idea of getting some new Christmas decorations,” commented council member Rich Ford. “I was kind of surprised at the cost. The tree is expensive, but it might be in the long run a better deal than trying to track down those big trees.”

“I think it is a great idea,” agreed council member Jim Bonta.

“For quite some time our decorations have been in need of repair,” said Mayor Pat Nagy. “It is an excellent idea that will help our businesses during the holiday season.”

Dunford said the city will use utility user tax (UUT) funds for the purchase.

“This is the kind of thing that the UUT was designed for, things that normally the city would not be able to consider doing (from its general fund),” remarked Nagy.

The city could later add the purchase of seasonal downtown banners as its budget allows, Dunford noted.

The military banners which now fly from downtown light poles will be relocated to the Highway 33/140 corridor in order to accommodate the holiday banners. The purchase includes new brackets for the military banners. Those brackets can be adjusted to prevent the banners from sagging, Vitorino stated in her staff report.

The banners are a project under the auspices of the local Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion posts. Kris Walton, commander of the American Legion post and coordinator of the banner project, said he is supportive of moving the banners to the highway corridor.

“I’m all for it. I think a lot more people are going to see them,” Walton commented. “They will be higher visibility, and we will have a little more room for additional banners.”