Tree cutting revs up in borough

Workers from Asplundh Tree Expert Co. trim and cut trees along Allerton Road in Naugatuck Sept. 29. CL&P is using Asplundh to trim and cuts trees along 32 miles of roads in the borough as part of its maintenance program. –LUKE MARSHALL
Workers from Asplundh Tree Expert Co. trim and cut trees along Allerton Road in Naugatuck Sept. 29. CL&P is using Asplundh to trim and cuts trees along 32 miles of roads in the borough as part of its maintenance program. –LUKE MARSHALL

NAUGATUCK — The sight of crews cutting and trimming trees along borough streets has become a familiar one over recent weeks.

Mitch Gross, spokesman for Connecticut Light & Power, said the utility company is in the process of trimming or cutting down trees along 32 miles of road in Naugatuck.

According to Gross all cutting and trimming is being done west of Route 8, in the northwest section of Naugatuck to the Middlebury and Oxford town lines. The work, which is being done by subcontractor Asplundh Tree Expert Co., started in early September and will continue, weather permitting, through October, he said.

The work is part of the utility’s maintenance program. Gross said fallen trees and branches are the number one cause of power outages across the state.

“Our customers expect reliable service and tree trimming is a very important part of our maintenance work,” Gross said.

Tree trimming and cutting became a major focus for CL&P and fellow utility, United Illuminating, after serious storms in recent years left many residents without power for prolonged periods of time. The aggressive tree cutting came under and continues to face criticism for going too far. The concerns led the Public Utility Regulatory Authority to adopt new regulations this year regarding tree cutting.

Under the state’s new guidelines, residents must be advised first if a tree will be cut or trimmed on their property. Property owners who object to the cutting must write a letter of objection to their local tree warden if they live on a municipal road. Those who live on a state road must object to their utility and the state Department of Transportation.

According to Public Works Superintendent Robert Roland, who also serves as the borough’s tree warden, the process of retaining a tree is pretty simple.

Roland said a property owner who doesn’t want a tree cut or trimmed must note it on the handouts distributed by CL&P. CL&P or Asplundh will then contact him, Roland said.

“I go up to the location and I’ll agree or disagree with the resident. In most cases I agree with the resident,” Roland said.

Roland said he has also advised residents that they can put a sign on a tree asking for it not to be cut down and CL&P will bring it to his attention.

While residents are able to request that the trees on their property not be trimmed or cut down Roland has the final say locally.

The local decision made by a municipal tree warden or the state can be appealed to PURA, according to state guidelines.

After Mayor Robert Mezzo told Roland that he had received phone calls from residents complaining that they had not been informed of any tree work on their property, Asplundh told officials they had gone door-to-door with handouts and consent forms. The company denied the borough’s request to notify a local newspaper of the program.

In an email to an Asplundh official, Roland wrote, “Unless you have direct communication with the property owner, the Mayor and I would not like you to cut any questionable trees without document consent.”

Roland said he has stopped CL&P from cutting down five trees in the borough so far.

“CL&P has not given us any argument on any of the trees I brought to their attention,” Roland said.

Roland said he has received two complaints since the tree work began.

The first was from a resident who was concerned about his tree being cut down. Roland advised him to put a sign on the tree and have CL&P contact the borough.

The second complaint was that people were cutting up trees taken down on Oak Terrace for firewood without the permission of the borough or CL&P.

Most residents have understood about the need to cut the trees, Roland said.

“In most cases, in light of the recent winters we’ve had the past two years and power outages, most residents understand the need to maintain electric flow,” Roland said.

Roland said if someone doesn’t want a tree cut down, he will do what he can to save it.

“I don’t want to cut any trees down unless I have to. When I go up and look at a tree I’m thinking I’m not going to cut it down. Unless there is a hazard to traffic, pedestrians, or an individual, I will look closer to see if we can save it by doing trimming,” Roland said.

Elio Gugliotti and the Republican American contributed to this article.