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Village Council— How much to cut back trees?

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Should the Village of Yellow Springs trim its trees more aggressively, thereby diminishing the chance of multi-day power outages, like the one that took place after last winter’s ice storm? And if so, how much would such an approach alter the appearance of a village known for its beautiful trees?

At their June 6 meeting Village Council began a discussion of Village tree-trimming policy, sparked by the need to budget money for this year’s tree work. The item was discussion only, and the discussion will be continued at Council’s June 20 meeting, along with a possible vote on the issue.

The topic seemed especially relevant this year, as many villagers lost power for several days following February’s ice storm. Village electric crew head Kelley Fox has stated that virtually all of the power outages, some of which lasted several days, were caused by downed trees and branches.

“If we don’t want the power to go out, we need a radical solution at first,” said Derek Willis of Arbor Care at the June 6 meeting.

The current Village tree-trimming policy is to trim trees 10 feet away from electrical lines in about 25 percent of the village each year, according to a memo by Village Manager Mark Cundiff. That 10-feet clearance does not clear branches more than 10 feet above the lines, nor does it totally clear out trees or vegatation below the lines, Cundiff wrote. Municipalities with more aggressive strategies often use a “ground to sky” approach that totally removes vegetation around the lines.

In a memo to Council, Cundiff stated that if the Village electric utility is seen solely as a business, then it makes the most business sense to clear trees aggressively to avoid power outages. However, he wrote, “it is not simply a business decision…if the majority of Village residents don’t mind multi-day outages (which might happen in an ice or wind storm) in order to not have the trees above the electric lines cleared out, then I feel Council needs to take this into consideration.”

While a few villagers complained to Council following the ice storm regarding its tree-trimming practices, others have not made their preferences known, according to Council President Judith Hempfling, who said she’d like to hear more opinions from villagers.

Council has two decisions to make soon, Cundiff wrote. First, Council members should decide if they want to trim a greater percentage of trees this year, and thus budget more money for the activity: last year, $58,000 was spent on clearing tree branches from lines. Council could decide to double the number of lines addressed this year, and consequently to double the amount budgeted, and clear all lines once every two years rather than once every four years.

And secondly, Council needs to decide whether to change the current tree-trimming policy to a more aggressive one, Cundiff said.

According to Willis of Arbor Care, local trees vary in their vulnerability to ice and wind storms. Hardwoods have more resistance to damage, while the softer deciduous trees, such as silver maples, box elders and white pines, tend to break under the pressure of ice or wind. Most of the trees that fell on lines during the ice storm were white pines, he said.

The Village could adopt a more aggressive strategy toward the trees most likely to cause power line damage, and not to the others, Willis said. Also, the Village could save money by leaving the wood that’s cleared beneath the trees for villagers to pick up and use, rather than having the tree-trimmers clean up all the debris, according to Lori Askeland.

Another option before moving ahead in the whole village could be using one neighborhood as a demonstration of a more aggressive strategy before trying it out on the whole village.

Council will take up the topic again June 20.

In other Council business:

• During citizens concerns, Dane Anderson, an employee of E-Health Data Solutions, spoke of that local company’s need to grow and difficulty in finding an appropriate new business space in the village. The company is owned by Roi Qualls and several investors located out of town.

“Our company is growing rapidly and we want to see it do its growing in a way that benefits both the company and Yellow Springs,” Anderson said. “We’re asking Council to help us reach an elegant solution.”

The Village staff has been in contact with Qualls and “the powers that be are working on it,” said Karen Wintrow. However, she said, the Village is hampered by a lack of policies related to business retention, along with a lack of building stock.

“This Council and staff is committed to keeping this business here. We’re working on it and hope we can make it happen,” she said.

• Cundiff gave an update on the two recent power outages. Both outages were caused by DP&L malfunctions, with the May 23 outage caused by DP&L poles knocked over by heavy wind, and the May 30 outage caused by a tripped circuit breaker at a DP&L substation on Trebein Road. The cause of the tripped breaker is not known, Cundiff wrote in a memo, stating that the Village could do nothing in either case other than wait for DP&L to make repairs. The May 30 outage, which took place on the evening of a hot Memorial Day, was not caused by peak usage, he said.

• Council voted 4–1 on a first reading of an ordinance that will allow local irrigators to install deduct meters. The change in current policy aims to benefit local gardeners and others who irrigate by allowing them to have water used appear only on their water bills rather than also on their sewer bills, as is currently the case. Lori Askeland voted against, citing the need for more water conservation.

• Council voted unanimously to reduce Gaunt Park pool fees for those families and children eligible for the new Swimming for All program, which aims to provide swimming pool passes to all local children and adults who need them.

• Council’s next meeting is Monday, June 20, at Council Chambers.


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