ROCKLAND, Maine — Central Maine Power Co. stopped trimming Rockland trees after residents complained of “extreme cutting,” and the City Council is working to hold off any further pruning until as late as next fall.
The trimming around Rockland’s power lines started in late January and was halted when the city called a public meeting to discuss the matter. Rockland City Manager Rosemary Kulow said the trimming is supposed to restart on Feb. 22, but the city is working to delay any further pruning until it reaches an agreement with CMP on trimming and public notification practices. The extra time may allow the city to apply to be considered for the Tree City USA designation.
Susan Beebe, a local artist, said she was walking to work one day in late January when she saw the results of the tree trimming.
“They had already cut up half of the one large tree on the street. It was a beautiful, shapely tree,” Beebe said of the box elder tree. “There was a large branch, about 8 or 9 inches in diameter, that used to beckon you down the street.”
Beebe said it hurts her to look at the tree now with that branch gone. “You only see ugly telephone wires and telephone poles,” she said.
“I think it’s important for everyone to understand that the purpose of trimming the trees is so we can provide reliable service to customers and to make sure the public is safe for contact around our lines,” said John Carroll, CMP manager of public affairs.
Carroll said safety concerns include trees becoming energized by the wires or children climbing the trees and into the electric lines.
The company said it would work on bettering its communication with the city. In this round of trimming, there was no legal notice for Rockland’s prunings. The city attorney said he did not expect any legal action regarding the situation. Carroll called it an oversight on CMP’s part.
CMP will wait for Rockland’s OK before moving on with the trimmings. “It will be up to them,” Carroll said. He said one of the first important steps that must be taken is for the city to hire an arborist.
City Councilor Elizabeth Dickerson said the city wants CMP to embrace a more urban-style trim.
“We don’t want them sawing down our trees, basically. They’ve been very helpful, and I think we will have a good result,” she said.
Two years ago, CMP changed its practices from targeting hot spots for trimmings, to a more systematic plan where every town’s lines are trimmed every five years. Some of the Rockland lines had not been trimmed in a long time, Carroll said.
Lincolnville had similar issues with CMP last year. According to town Administrator David Kinney, residents were concerned about the extent of the trimming, how the pruning was done and the lack of resident notification. Lincolnville held a special town meeting, after which CMP improved its communication with residents regarding pruning.