JASPER — Well, when you got to go, you got to go. For a Jasper landmark, the time for it to go has also come.
County officials pondered that reality as repairs were being made to the courthouse sewer line.
The sewer line from inside the courthouse is laid around the west side of the building and then south across the lawn to Church Street where it connects to the city's sewer line. Between the courthouse and the street, the sewer line had been interrupted by the root system of the old pine tree that has been growing in the southwest corner of the courthouse lawn for untold years. The white plastic clean out pipe surfaces on the street side of the tree.
The tree's expanding root system already caused a nearby portion the sidewalk to rise and crack. Roots were advancing like menacing tentacles towards the historic building's foundation and the Newton County War Memorial monument.
The tree was as tall as the courthouse itself. It had been topped numerous times over the years giving it a more round than conical shape. A long string of clear electric lights was wrapped around its boughs and was lit in companionship with lights on the courthouse during the holiday season. It served as the county's official Christmas tree. It was also a home for nesting birds and provided shade for the farmers market that sets up on that side of the courthouse during the summer.
Newton County Judge Warren Campbell was asked about the state of repairs at the end of the Aug. 5, quorum court meeting. The judge didn't want to say it, but it looked like it was time for the tree to go.
The judge feared laying the new sewer line had further damaged the tree's roots and would cause it to die. Would it be better to remove the tree as part of making the repairs?
JPs, county officials and spectators gathered outside after the meeting to look the situation over. Viewed as a renewable resource, the tree can be replaced, some of them said. Still, they recognized that the tree had sentimental value to residents as well.
Some county employees summed it up this way: They liked having the tree, but they like being able to flush better.
On Thursday, Aug. 8, crews from the Carroll Electric Cooperative took down the tree for the county. It was gone by noon.