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Council questions tree trimming

Workers from Steele Storm Recovery Service trim trees along Humiston Avenue Friday afternoon in Worthington. (Brian Korthals/Daily Globe)1 / 2
A Richmond Tree Experts worker in a bucket lift cuts off a large limb Friday, May 10, in Worthington. (Brian Korthals/Daily Globe)2 / 2

WORTHINGTON -- In a discussion with Ceres Environmental and True North during Monday night's meeting, the city council questioned the tree-trimming regulations set by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

"According to the FEMA regulations, at least what we've been told by Ceres and True North, they can only make the cut at the break," City Administrator Craig Clark said. "We've gotten a lot of calls from constituents saying, 'What are they doing? We are paying this money for this service to clean up the community and they cutting it where there is basically a log hanging off the tree.'"

Representatives from Ceres, the company hired to remove the debris, and True North, the monitoring company, were in attendance during the Monday meeting.

Mayor Alan Oberloh explained he had met with the companies, "to their defense, they are doing it the way they have always interpreted it."

The council stressed it wasn't anything against the two companies, but rather the regulations they were operating under.

The concern was about trees that have been trimmed and left with little left but the trunk. Both Gail Hanscom from Ceres and Derrick Tucker from True North expressed concern about going back and removing trees that have already been trimmed.

"Historically, I would think FEMA would be very concerned about us going back," Tucker said. "First, we document the removal of hazardous hanging limbs. Then to go back and remove the tree seems to be a duplication of effort."

Tucker said there could be an issue if FEMA comes to check on the work.

"I've been with FEMA before where they come and post validate," he said. "They go visit this tree and they want to verify there was a hazardous hanging limb that they thought it was eligible. If we go back, the tree won't be there if we remove it."

In other cases, Tucker said he has had FEMA on the ground with them.

"In the past, in every city we've worked with, we're trying to save the trees," Tucker said. "We approached this trying to save the canopy as we can. Coupled with we're accustomed to having FEMA out there with us. Getting their buy in and getting their approval, 'Yes, that's a removal or no, that's just hazardous hanging limbs.' They are very particular about tree removals and stumps.

"I'd feel more comfortable if we had FEMA on board with us."

"Where are they at?" Oberloh asked.

"True North and Ceres are doing this how the way we've historically done it for it to be successful on your behalf to get your reimbursement," Tucker said.

Oberloh reiterated it wasn't anything against the two companies, but rather a concern for the shape of the town's trees.

"This isn't a witch hunt against your companies," he said. "This is a frustration we have because of constituents and we are going to still be here. We're going to have to watch it heal. Like you said, 'Where is FEMA?' And this is a heck of a process for this community."

Director of Public Works Jim Eulberg said he gets 20 to 30 calls per day about the issue.

"Most understand there are rules and if we're going to get reimbursed, we have to play by the rules," he said.

The council will meet with FEMA and Homeland Security and Emergency Management officials today in an effort to get more clarification.

Hanscom said she feels the clean-up is coming along quickly. To date, Ceres has picked up 43,507 cubic yards of debris in the right of way. They have trimmed 4,999 trees and removed 55 more.

In other business, the council approved an amendment to the policy for private docks on city property. The council approved the new policy, which includes an increase in the fees, allowing the council to set the maximum number of private docks allowed and require signs to read "Open to the public."

The county plans for the trail along County Highways 10 and 35 was also supported by the council.

Director of Engineering Dwayne Haffield presented plans to improve of 10th Street and First Avenue Southwest. The two roads will be milled and replaced. Tenth Street will have two inches removed, while First Avenue Southwest will have 1.75.

"Once they show up and begin work, they have a clock that starts on them. Once they start on milling, they have only so much time until they are done," Haffield said. "The part that is going to take some time is all the pedestrian ramps. That shouldn't be something that we are going to make a big announcement about. We are going to work it in and not have any big detour."

Haffield anticipated it would take about four days to complete the road work.

Daily Globe Community Content Coordinator Aaron Hagen may be reached at 376-7323.