This area, once a shaded spot along Yadkin Creek, is now an open space after the city of Steelville cut down several trees there. Luci Martin asked city workers to trim the trees along a primary power line, but the city ended up completely removing five trees that were, according to Martin, more than 40 years old.
Luci Martin, property owner at 228 Cedar Street, approached the Steelville City Council during the June 4 meeting to make a tree-trimming request. According to Martin, one tree on her property, which follows the Yadkin Creek across from Country Mart, had a few limbs in the city’s power lines and needed to be trimmed. The council agreed to take care of the issue, but the result was not what Martin had expected.
“There were only two trees that had a wire going through them,” Martin explained to Three Rivers Publishing after the city came in to take care of the trees. “I have had this property for more than 25 years, and I’ve never had them come trim a single tree. They’ve never been down here and done anything.” Prior to the city’s involvement on her property, she and her husband had done all of the trimming themselves when it was needed, but due to recent health issues, she called on the city for their assistance.
When she arrived on her property Friday, she found that not only had the tree in question been cut down to the ground, but four trees that once shaded her trailers and tenants from the sun and the public were completely gone.
“I’ve never asked them to do anything,” she continued. “When they got here, they started in and whacked (five trees down). I didn’t even know they did it until I got there. They had five beautiful trees that had been here 40 years or more cut right to the ground. If they needed a trim, that’s fine, but I didn’t want those trees cut. I never asked them to cut down the trees. It’s very devastating.”
On Tuesday, Building Inspector Alan Thorpe and Bob Cornick of the city electric department commented on the events that took place that Friday.
“It was a judgment call,” Thorpe explained. “These lines directly supply 911 with their power, and lately, they have lost power for days at a time.”
When the tree-trimming crew was given the task, they were told to only trim, but an executive decision was made by Thorpe and Cornick to remove all five trees as they were a direct threat to the line of power to the E911 office.
“We tried to offer to replant trees that were 15 feet away from the power lines,” Thorpe added, “but she didn’t want anything to do with that.” Cornick also explained that Crawford Electric does the same thing the city did to Martin’s trees. “If their trees aren’t 15 feet from the line, they cut them down.”
Martin’s argument is that only one of the trees was critical and should have been removed, but the other four had no justification. However, public works supervisor Tom Murray feels differently.
“Those trees are in the right-of-way, which is a 30-foot right-of-way, which means that 15 feet on either side is to be kept clear so we don’t have electric outages,” Murray said. “We have had a lot of outages on that line, and that’s why Bob (Cornick) did what he did. We had to trim all the way back to the trunk to get everything off of the lines, and if you just trim them, they’ll be back in no time. We try to do the best we can, especially with primary lines like this one. If we didn’t do that, people would be out of electric if the trees were to blow down on them during a storm.”
Murray explained that in severe situations, such as large wind or ice storm, those trees would be in a dangerous position for power loss.
“I thought we had it all settled,” Murray admitted. “We were doing what we were supposed to do. We were following our ordinances, and those go for everybody. It’s not just on her.”
Murray also explained that one large tree had grown not only into the power line, but also into the guy wire that supports the electric pole. “That guy wire is stretched out, so we had to cut it down and we’ll have to tighten the guy wire.”
Although Murray feels that the city did everything exactly the way they are supposed to, he did admit that one thing should have changed. “The only thing we did wrong, if we did anything wrong, was not contacting her before the trees were cut,” he explained. “If 911 is out of electric, that’s a big deal. That’s the reason why we’re doing this—to keep the outages from happening to 911.”