Tree trimming to resume
GREENSBORO, Jan 26, 2013 (News & Record - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Duke Energy will soon restart tree-trimming work after a voluntary five-week moratorium spurred by City Council pressure.
Utility officials notified the city by letter Thursday.
The letter came just as Asplundh Tree Experts, Duke's contractor, told Lindley Park residents that trimming work for an AT&T project will begin within days.
That notification did not provide the type of advance notice Duke Energy and city officials discussed in recent weeks.
Duke Energy district manager Davis Montgomery said AT&T asked the utility to have the work done in Lindley Park. Because the trimming is not part of regular maintenance, the company did not follow the proposed guidelines, he said. The company did not agree to stop what it calls 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.
Councilwoman Nancy Vaughan said Friday, "I am very frustrated by this. I think it was a bad-faith move."
"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 work in Lindley Park until Feb. 11, Deputy City Manager Jim Westmoreland said.
Mayor Robbie Perkins asked council members to share their thoughts with him so the city can 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 Energy officials developed guidelines to give property owners more notice of tree trimming.
On Jan. 15, the council said it wanted a tougher tree-protection ordinance.
In a letter to the city this week, Senior Vice President Jeffrey Corbett of Duke Energy said that on Monday the company will begin trimming around transmission lines, the high-voltage power lines that typically are strung from tall towers.
But it's unlikely work will begin Monday, Westmoreland said, because city and Duke officials will meet that afternoon to review work plans.
Trimming will begin soon after, Montgomery said.
Using aerial surveillance, Duke identified about 14 trees it says pose an immediate threat to lines, Westmoreland said.
Corbett also asked that utility officials be allowed to help develop the tree ordinance.
Westmoreland, via email, recommended to the council that city leaders honor that request.
At least two council members objected.
Meanwhile residents were angered this week by what appeared to be Duke's disregard for the communication guidelines it developed with the city. Those guidelines would give residents 30 days' notice of trimming.
Residents circulated a letter on Facebook that was sent to homeowners on Collier Drive in Lindley Park, informing them work would soon begin there.
The letter from 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.
"We continue to stand by our commitment to work with the city and regret that a miscommunication occurred yesterday," Montgomery wrote in a letter to Perkins that was delivered Friday night.
Montgomery told a News & Record reporter that the Lindley Park notification letter may have been written on old stationery 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 the company agreed to do in regular maintenance work.
The city-utility 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 to 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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