Residents Complain Over BWL Tree Trimming

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"The neighborhood has had an over-head canopy dating back decades," said Aron Sousa, as he took WILX News Ten for a tour around his neighborhood in East Lansing.

He and some of his neighbors are upset about what they said is BWL's "excessive" tree cutting program. He said not only is it bad for the trees, it's bad for property values.

"The trees actually held up remarkably well compared to some other communities in the ice storm, so they are taking down limbs that actually have survived a bad ice storm," said Sousa.

In 18 years, he's never had a complaint before, but he said this new program is too much.

"You can see that some of these trees have been cut back by large amounts," said Sousa. "East Lansing is a tree city, and BWL in the past has apparently won awards for how they trim trees. It would be really too bad if they went back on that dedication."

At least one tree on his street was reduced to just a trunk. Towering into the sky something like 50 feet, it doesn't even have one branch left.

"It's just going to help the customers in the long run," said Amy Akers, a BWL employee describing the new tree trimming initiative. "It's cheaper to have it trimmed before hand than to try and restore power and put up new lines."

The BWL said it has gotten tree trimming awards 12 years in a row, and uses nationally recognized standards.

"It's not that we're trying to emphasize or put in anyone's face how great we are," said Akers. "We've recognized 54 action points that we needed to improve on and we have. Many of those [items] have already been completed."

More tree trimming is one of those items. The BWL has increased the number of crews it contracts. It can have as many as 18 crews trimming trees at any one time, and plans on visiting every neighborhood every five years now.

Many neighbors who lost power for more than a week still have negative feelings towards the BWL after what happened here in December.

"They're adding insult to insults," said Sousa. "They are cutting back the trees of the neighborhood beyond what probably needs to be done in response to the fact that they didn't hire enough crews to return power to neighborhoods all over the region."

"We're really proud of our tree trimming efforts," said Akers. "To have [received the award] for the 12th year, I think it really shows our commitment to the community and making this a priority for the Board of Water and Light."

Sousa said he wishes BWL would prune the trees to make them stronger and more healthy-- not chop them down.

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