2005-11-24 / News

Bids in for town forest project; new tree panel chairman named

By Michaela Kennedy

The Town Tree Preservation and Protection Committee announced at its Nov. 15 meeting that bids to clean up the town forest on Melrose Avenue were received. The committee also approved committee member Emmett Turley as their new chairman.

In the town arborist’s report, Dave Nickerson said that bids for removal of the pine logs in the town forest on Melrose Avenue had been received. The low bid was for $4,480, and two other bids were within $500. He noted that the contract award would be on the Town Council’s agenda at their next meeting.

Nickerson asked that members report all of the volunteer hours spent, as well as money spent, on committee projects in order to justify matching fund requirements for grant money awarded.

Nickerson also asked that the professional arborists who volunteered their time and services to help clear the town forest this fall be sent a letter of appreciation by the committee. Committee members put the request on the agenda for future discussion.

The tree warden said that a resident on Mizzen Street had asked him about removing a large oak tree abutting her property. He noted, however, that the resident had not yet submitted a permit request for the removal.

In unfinished business, committee members talked about putting treetrimming requests on the committee Web site. They agreed that general guidelines should be posted on the Web site, with a copy of the permit. According to town policy, the actual permit forms are numbered and must be obtained from Town Hall.

The group also discussed proposed changes to the tree committee bylaws, including attendance requirements, adherence of the Rhode Island Open Meetings Act, and detailing the scope of duties of officers and members. Committee member Judy DiBello volunteered to draft a compilation of the proposed changes.

In new business, Committee Chairman Frank Andres read a letter of recommendation he had written to send to the Town Council for the re-appointment of Emmett Turley to the committee. Turley’s term expires in December 2005.

Andres told the committee that he was resigning as chairman, effective that evening. He made a motion to appoint Emmet Turley for the position, which was seconded by committee member Barry Holland. Turley said he would accept the position if approved. The motion passed with a unanimous vote.

The committee looked at various options to develop a policy for the Tree Planting Program. Major concerns voiced by members present were the responsibilities for caring for young trees during their first season, site location, ownership, ongoing maintenance and pruning. Andres agreed to write a draft outline of a new policy based on the points discussed, and the committee would review the proposal at a future meeting.

In a previous meeting, the town arborist had told the committee that his jurisdiction did not include shrubs that block a rightof way. DiBello showed the committee a copy of Rhode Island public law that clearly gave jurisdiction on this point to a town tree warden. The town’s tree ordinance does not clearly spell out this responsibility, which could significantly increase the amount of time spent by the town arborist to cover his duties.

The tree warden reminded the committee of his need for a method to determine where the town rights-of-way are on every street in order to enforce the tree ordinance. Andres noted that a list of every street’s measurements and ROWs were required to be kept in the town records in order to obtain federal funding for street projects. The committee decided to invite the director of public works to attend the next meeting to discuss how this issue could be resolved.

Also on the agenda was a discussion of the need for a deputy tree warden. Nickerson said that a deputy would be more readily available to monitor construction sites for ordinance compliance and to respond to requests that required immediate attention. He pointed out that he was not always on the island to respond to such needs.

According to the town tree ordinance, the tree warden is authorized to appoint a deputy, but compensation must be approved by the Town Council. The committee discussed the possibility of appointing a highway department employee for the duty. Nickerson said that he had discussed this with the director of public works, who felt he could not support it. The committee agreed that this need should be brought to the attention of the council and the new town administrator, when one is appointed. Turley and Holland agreed to prepare a list of issues for discussion with the town officials, which would include the primary concern of funding a deputy tree warden.

The warden requested that plaques be purchased for new tree plantings on Narragansett Avenue to honor resident John Collins, who contributed $2,500 toward tree planting on that street. He also asked that Pem Attaway be considered for a plaque. The committee decided to put the requests on the agenda for a future meeting.

In an open forum, committee member Andres said that a tree planted on High Street as part of the Tree Planting Program had been removed without a permit during construction on the site. Nickerson agreed to check on the problem and take necessary action. The committee also agreed to put enforcement of the tree ordinance on the agenda for discussion at a future meeting.

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