Monterey residents condemn electric company tree trimming

Monterey, Va. –

John Sisler of Shenandoah Valley Electric Cooperative got an earful of criticism at the recent Town Council meeting regarding the way trees were trimmed in Monterey in 2011. The Council held a public hearing on the franchise agreement to provide power to the Town at its meeting earlier this month. Town Attorney Melissa Dowd read a letter from Susan and Ellie Swecker regarding their tree trimming experience at the house they own on Potomac River Road across from the Exxon station.

“In one of the pictures you can see branches that have literally fallen off since the extreme measures taken in trimming the maple,” said Ms. Dowd. “A tree service recommended that we fertilize around the roots of the tree, but we may never see a recovery. I do understand the need to cut when trees are close to power lines, however, I object to how our tree was trimmed and I object to the misleading statements made by Mr. Sorrels. I hope the Town can encourage the electric company to trim trees with far more sensitivity than shown us. Quite frankly we are devastated about what has happened to our maple and that there is not much we can do to enable its recovery,” she said.

Councilmen Francis Fenn and Don Dowdy spoke about their experiences with the trimmers.

“I would like to concur with that letter, because they did butcher trees all up and down the street,” said Councilman Fenn. “Including mine,” interjected Mayor Janice Warner. “Rather than trimming the trees, they butchered them,” said Mr. Fenn. Councilman Don Dowdy added, “He done the same thing to mine and when I questioned why he was cutting so much off of it, he said if you don’t like just tie a red ribbon around it and when we come back we will take it all the way down’. That was his response,” said Mr. Dowdy.

Shenandoah Valley Electric Cooperative representative John Sisler responds.

“That’s not what we would like to hear,” said Mr. Sisler. “I will say that the tree trimming we did this time was a deeper cut than what you have probably been used to, only because the tree trimming had not been done for such a period of time. Allegheny Power hadn’t done any tree trimming beyond certain three-phase lines for a number of years, because of the financial situation they were in in the early 2000’s. So instead of the five year cycle, it was ten to fifteen years in some areas where we saw this cycle. So when you’ve got ten to fifteen years worth of growth versus a five year growth cycle, to get it back where it needs to be, it’s gonna have to be a deeper cut,” he said.

Councilman Fenn then had some final comments.

“I will have to say they did not use any reason whatsoever in how they trimmed the trees,” said Councilman Fenn. “They cut half of the tree off and went away and left it a half a tree, and did not bother to trim anything else. It was a disgrace, the way they trimmed the trees, and it has not been fifteen years since these trees have been trimmed. And I think we need to relay it to the president of the corporation, how disgruntled the Town of Monterey is and was with the way you all trimmed the trees,” he said.

Town Attorney Melissa Dowd noted that the new franchise agreement includes language about trimming trees according to the Utility Arborist Association best management practices. There were also public comments about the marked increase in utility bills that occurred after Shenan doah Valley Electric Cooperative took over the service. John Sisler explained that the cost of power per kilowatt hour has not changed, but additional fees have been added to bills resulting in higher monthly costs to consumers. Following the public comments, the Town Council voted to approve the franchise agreement.

The next meeting of the Monterey Town Council is scheduled for Thursday, November 1, at 7:30 PM in the Highland Public Library.

Story By

Heather Niday

Heather is our Program Director and Traffic Manager. She started with Allegheny Mountain Radio as a volunteer deejay. She then joined the AMR staff in February of 2007. Heather grew up in the Richmond, Virginia, area and now lives in Arbovale, West Virginia with her husband Chuck. Heather is a wonderful flute player, and choir director for Arbovale UMC. You can hear Heather along with Chuck on Tuesday nights from 6 to 8pm as they host two hours of jazz on Something Different.

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