MONTVILLE, Conn. (WTNH)– The pine tree at the entrance to I-395 in Montville has been a source of holiday joy over the years but now it’s at the center of a controversy in town.

“I’m amazed at what’s going on,” said Jeff Roderick, of Montville.

He and his daughter have been decorating the tree for more than twenty years and recently revealed they were the mystery decorators. 

“Presents and stuff they put under it,” said Chris Conroy, of New London. “The bulbs and lights.”

In March, they decided to decorate the tree as a thank you to first responders and healthcare workers.  One resident, however, complained to the mayor that the handcuffs were insensitive with all the recent claims of police brutality.

“I know nothing about that. I’m a cable cutter,” said Roderick. “I just now got internet because I want to see local news and now I’m seeing about the fires, I know nothing about. I’m seeing about, what’s his name, George Floyd?”

The mayor’s office told News 8 he got a lot of phone calls calling him a racist, and out of frustration, he said at a public safety meeting, “maybe we should just cut it down.” That sparked a firestorm of calls for his resignation and anger toward the woman who complained about the tree.

“I want everybody to leave her alone,” said Roderick. “She has a right to her opinion, as well as I do.”

The mayor has since said he never really wanted the state DOT to cut down the tree, and hopes the controversy that has blown up, blows over. 

“If I could have found badges. I didn’t realize…. handcuffs were available,” said Roderick. “Fifty cents a piece.”

The tree really does get a lot of attention from people getting on the highway or just driving down the very busy Route 163.

“It’s nice to see, but like I said, I don’t know if there have been any accidents as a result of it being there,” said Conroy.

Roderick wants to add more decorations and he’s working with his ex-wife on those.

“She’s going to go find artificial apples so we can hang them on there for the teachers,” said Roderick.

Despite the controversy, he’s glad the tree and those working this pandemic may be getting more attention now.

“By the way, nurses rule,” said Roderick.