AUBURN, Maine — Steve and Tara Kristman pay a lot of attention to their yard at their home on Silva Street near Taylor Pond.
There’s a swing set for the kids, and there used to be a blackberry bush just starting to bear fruit, and more shade.
“It was beautiful out here,” Steve Kristman said, walking his property Thursday. “Now it’s disgusting.”
The Kristmans are upset over a public works tree pruning earlier this week that they say went too far.
Public works maintains that the boxelder trees were in the city right of way, potential hazards, and had to go.
Neighbors and plow drivers had complained to them, according to Deputy Director Nick Labbe. He said two licensed arborists and the highway supervisor reviewed the work ahead of time.
“It is the responsibility of public works to maintain safe conditions along the roadways in Auburn and in order to do this, trees and brush sometimes need to be cut down,” Labbe said. “There is occasional confusion in regards to property lines and who ‘owns’ a tree.”
The city can prune and trim in its right of way, he said. Depending on the road, that either stretches to the end of the pavement or several feet into the property beside it. When a tree or bush is on private property the city leaves the owner a note ahead of time, Labbe said.
Public works cuts about 80 mature trees and four miles of brush a year, according to its website.
Steve Kristman said he had been warned a year ago that the city planned to trim 10 feet around a nearby pole, and said he was fine with that. He said the end result was closer to 20 feet.
“After all the hard work we’ve put in over the years, eight years of work, when we drove up the street it just took my breath away,” he said.
He disputes that all of the cut area falls within the right of way.
Kristman also claims workers left brush and debris behind, and that he hasn’t gotten far with public works despite several phone calls and visits to his property.
Labbe said it’s practice to remove limbs, trees and cut brush. He also pointed to an email thanking the crew for “such a great job clearing the brush and trimming trees on Silva Street a few mornings ago.”
Kristman isn’t thanking anyone.
“I’m not looking for $1 million, I’m not looking for $100 — I’m looking for them to clean up their mess and maybe apologize,” he said.
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