Tree-trimming to begin again in Greensboro
GREENSBORO, Jan 26, 2013 (Menafn - News & Record - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --Duke Energy plans to imminently restart tree trimming work in Greensboro after a voluntary five-week trimming moratorium spurred by City Council pressure.
Utility officials notified the city by letter on Thursday.
The letter came just as Duke contractor Asplundh told Lindley Park residents trimming work for an AT&T project will begin there in a matter of days. That notification did not provide the type of advanced notice that Duke Energy and city officials discussed in recent weeks.
Duke Energy district manager Davis Montgomery said AT&T requested the Lindley Park work. Because it is not related to regular maintenance work, he said it did not follow the new proposed communications guidelines. The company did not agree to stop what it called costumer-initiated trimming.
Montgomery, who has been on the city-utility working group, said he was unaware of the project until the city brought it to his attention.
"I am very frustrated by this. I think it was a bad faith move," Councilwoman Nancy Vaughan said Friday. "Certainly the people at Duke Energy have to realize how sensitive this is. We should not be penalized because they cannot communicate internally."
Duke agreed to delay any work in Lindley Park until Feb. 11, Deputy City Manager Jim Westmoreland said.
Mayor Robbie Perkins asked the council to give him their thoughts so that city could present a "united response" to Duke.
The mayor will appoint a council subcommittee to work on a tougher tree protection ordinance Feb. 5.
In December, the council asked Duke to stop trimming after leaders were inundated by complaints from residents. Utility officials agreed.
Since then, a group of city and Duke leaders developed new guidelines to provide property owners with more advanced notice of contractor trimming activities. On Jan. 15, the council said it wanted a tougher tree protection ordinance.
In a letter to the city this week, Duke senior vice president Jeffrey Corbett said on Jan. 28 the company will begin trimming around transmission lines, the high-voltage power lines that typically are strung from tall towers.
Westmoreland said he didn't expect actual trimming to begin on Monday.
Westmoreland said Duke did aerial surveillance in Greensboro and identified 14 or so trees that posed an immediate threat to the power lines.
City and Duke officials will meet Monday afternoon to go over the planned work. Trimming will begin soon after, Montgomery said.
Corbett also asked that utility officials be allowed to help develop the tree ordinance. Westmoreland recommended, via email to the council, that city leaders honor that request. At least two council members objected to that.
Meanwhile, this week residents were angered by what appeared to be Duke's disregard for the communication guidelines it developed with the city, which were meant to give residents 30 days notice of trimming.
Residents circulated a letter on Facebook sent to homeowners on Collier Drive in Lindley Park, informing them that work would soon be done there.
The letter, from tree contractor Asplundh, said the homeowners have three business days to contact the company with concerns. However, the letter provided no date and no phone number to submit concerns.
"That's just irresponsible," Councilwoman Marikay Abuzuaiter said.
Duke's Montgomery said the issue in Lindley Park was "just a fluke. It was just an honest mistake on our operation side." Duke sent the council a formal apology Friday afternoon, he said.
Montgomery said the Lindley Park letter may have been written on old stationary and that newer form letters include contact information.
He also said the trimming was requested by a customer, so it did not follow the kind of advanced notification that the company agreed to do in regular maintenance work.
The city-utility tree working group will have to determine whether it wants those type of trimming projects to have the same advance notification, Montgomery said.
"Do you want put a project that is time-sensitive on the same track that you do for these other situations?" he asked. "Do you treat them all the same?"
Contact Amanda Lehmert at 373-7075 and follow @alehmert on Twitter.
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