Loudon council reverses course on tree removal
Katherine Fernandez News-Herald.net
Previous Loudon City Council members chose to decline a motion for removing nine trees from Liberty Park in the city of Loudon during November’s regular meeting, but new members seated after the election this fall reversed the decision during Monday’s regular meeting.

Loudon Parks and Recreation Director Mark Harrell requested approval for the removal of the trees that he said would avoid future cleanup costs at the newly constructed municipal pool.

While Harrell said he does not understand why previous members denied the appeal, he said he was pleased the new council saw fit to remove the hardwoods.

“I don’t know if they (the previous council) did their homework, if they were prepared to make that decision,” Harrell said. “It was kind of like the last council’s meeting, and I really don’t know. I just feel like they didn’t do their homework and realize that the problems that the trees were going to cause.”

Harrell has since added more trees to the list, creating a total of 18 to be chopped down. What would have been a cheap job will now be more costly. A new fence was recently placed around the pool.

Lynn Mills, city manager, recommended council approve the low bid of $1,350 for Brewster’s Services Group to cut down the trees and grind the stumps.

Councilman John James said upon reading the information given to him, he saw no issue with removing the trees.

James said engineers informed council and Harrell during the beginning stages of constructing the pool cleanup due to leaves from the trees would cost between $10,000-$15,000 each year.

“I just couldn’t see spending 10 or $15,000 in extra expenditures because of about six or seven trees that really and truly that’s not a place to have trees,” James said. “If you want trees, you can put trees out there that are decorative and non-pollution, and they’ll do as good a job as those trees will do.”

James said removing the trees seemed the best economical option for the city. Harrell said removing them will create “huge, huge savings” on cleaning the pool, which is “an everyday problem.”

After the trees are cut down, residents may sign waivers and chop firewood, Harrell said. The waivers will ensure the city is not liable for accidents that may occur from residents chopping wood.

Leftover waste will not go to landfills. Harrell said any remaining branches will be used as mulch for nature trails.

“First of all, it’s very economical what we’re trying to do,” Harrell said. “We’re cutting the trees down and going to allow the public come in and have access because it is good firewood. They’re all hardwood trees.”

In other business, council:

  • Amended the 2014-2015 fiscal year budget to allocate $50,000 from the residential grant program to other downtown improvements as part of the Downtown Courthouse Square Revitalization program and reclassified $1.4 million for debt proceeds for the construction of the new Loudon municipal pool and partial repayment on the purchase of a fire truck. The third amendment appropriated $10,250 of the existing fund balance to pay for the runoff election.
  • Accepted the resolution to honor the 2014 Loudon High School Redskins football team with “Redskin Week” that began Dec. 15.
  • Authorized the purchase of a 2014 Dodge Ram crew cab 1/2 ton pickup truck from Secret City Chrysler for a total cost of $28,569, which includes $5,055 for additional equipment installation. The vehicle, which is budgeted from the recovery of drug funds, will be driven by Loudon Police Sgt. Bill Evans.