Thursday, April 4, 2013
SCE&G representatives were called to the carpet Wednesday over their tree pruning and removal methods, but by the end of the planning committee’s meeting council members seemed to come around to the utility’s point of view.
Councilman Bill McIntosh said the tree cutting prompted concern among residents, who flooded council members with calls.
“I use the word ‘concern’ with understatement. Folks were pretty upset about it,” he said.
Addressing the SCE&G representatives in the audience, he said, “I want SCE&G to understand that this isn’t North Charleston. … We’re Flowertown in the Pines. We’re a Tree City USA.”
Every time SCE&G comes through town for pruning, there’s backlash, he said.
Councilman Aaron Brown, observing from the audience, said he’d like a town employee to accompany tree trimmers so the work doesn’t turn into a mess.
“People are really appalled at the way these trees are being hacked,” he said.
But as the SCE&G representatives explained their procedures, and council members faced the reality of how little control they have over the utility’s actions within the right-of-way, the committee backed away from criticism.
At the least, they told town staffers, elected officials should be notified when tree trimming is about to begin so they aren’t blindsided by constituent calls.
SCE&G sends postcards to the town for every address at which it will be trimming trees, but that information hadn’t been making its way to council.
Billy Harsey told the committee he always consults with town staff before cutting down grand trees.
For example, he said, there was a tree on Cedar Street that needed to be pruned dramatically and he thought it might be better to cut it down. But town staff asked him to retain the tree, so he did, he said.
In front of Margaritas Mexican Restaurant on North Main Street, SCE&G is realigning wires rather than cut a grand tree, he said.
Committee members, however, wanted to explore their options for putting those procedures in writing, both to ensure the same consideration is given when different people eventually fill Harsey’s position and to establish best practices for other entities exempt from the town’s tree ordinance, like the S.C. Department of Transportation.