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Tree-trimming policy eyed

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At the Feb. 7 Village Council meeting, a citizen urged the Village to reconsider its tree-trimming policy in the wake of the recent ice storm that knocked out power for 80 percent of village homes.

“I believe the Village has a responsibility to ensure that utility easements are cleared,” said Joe Lewis, who lives on Fairfield Pike. “We need to go through and look at what happened, and what we need to do.”

Village Manager Mark Cundiff and Superintendent of Electric and Water Kelley Fox agreed that the ice storm should spark a close look at the current practice of trimming trees in Village easements. In an interview, Cundiff said that Yellow Springs tends to be less aggressive than many municipalities in trimming trees because many villagers value the appearance of the trees near their home. However, the trade-off may be more limbs falling on power lines during weather emergencies such as the recent ice storm and Hurricane Ike in 2008.

Falling ice-encrusted limbs caused all of last week’s power outages, according to Fox.

“Every outage was caused by a tree,” he said, and pine trees caused about 60 percent of the outages.

Most village residences lost power on the evening of Tuesday, Feb. 1, and the Village electric crew, along with the crews of four regional towns, worked long hours to repair the outages. Most who lost power had it restored by the following evening, although many homes remained without power for almost 48 hours, Cundiff said.

“In my 27 years with the Village, I haven’t seen an ice storm do this much damage,” Fox said.

The current Village practice is to trim trees to give 10 feet of clearance from power lines both vertically and horizontally, Fox said. According to Fox, that policy is less aggressive than many communities.

“A more aggressive cut doesn’t make the tree look good, but you’re more likely to have power,” he said.

In the past, some villagers have requested that the Village trim trees on their property only lightly to preserve the trees’ appearance, according to Lewis, a former Village Council member. However, trees can fall on the lines of neighbors, causing power outages to their homes, he said.

“Mr. Lewis is right. We need to sit down and evaluate,” Cundiff said.

Council members requested that Fox research the tree-trimming practices of other communities and report back to Council for further discussion.

In other Council business:

• Council approved 3–1 the first reading of an ordinance that discontinues the practice of adding fluoride to the Village water supply. Lori Askeland, Judith Hempfling and Rick Walkey voted to discontinue fluoride use, while Karen Wintrow opposed the measure. John Booth was absent due to illness.

The fluoride issue has been discussed by Council for almost a year, since the Environmental Commission recommended that the fluoridating of local water, which has taken place for more than 50 years, be discontinued due to concerns regarding the effects of fluoride on all human systems. Villagers who supported adding fluoride to local water pointed to its effect strengthening teeth, especially the teeth of children.

Council sponsored two public forums on the issue, during which experts reported that there was a lack of sound research regarding the effects of fluoride on the body. However, there is evidence that is it harmful to babies and to those with kidney problems.

Citing extensive research into the fluoride question, Askeland said she is comfortable with discontinuing its use, partly because Americans receive much more fluoride in their diet than 50 years ago, and it is easily available in a topical form.

“I’m comfortable saying there is not a public need to fluoridate, although it’s a good idea to use fluoride in a topical way,” Askeland said.

In explaining her no vote, Wintrow stated that the community is evenly divided on the issue, and that it’s important that Council’s decision reflect community desires. She also encouraged Council to communicate the change to local schools and parents.

• Council also unanimously approved its 2011 Village goals, along with a change to criteria used by the Board of Zoning Appeals, upon advice of Village Law Director John Chambers.

• Council’s next meeting will be Tuesday, Feb. 22, at 7 p.m. in Village chambers, due to Village offices being closed on Presidents’ Day, Feb. 21.

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