Claremore City councilors budgeted $700,000 for tree trimming and removal to help prevent electricity power outages.
“At some point we have to start maintaining that responsibly,” City Manager John Feary said. “We're making considerable investments in our electric infrastructure. We’re spending more money this next year on that than we ever have, and we'll continue to make that investment. This is just part of that process to make sure that we have reliable power.”
The city is planning on going out to bid by the end of July to bring in a licensed crew to trim trees that have grown into the electricity lines.
“We've had more outages due to tree-line issues and easements issues this year than we typically do,” Feary said.
Feary said this year has been worse than normal because of the “extensive amount of wind” – which created broken limbs.
City councilors amended the ordinance regarding tree distance from utilities by lowering the time to appeal from 10 days to three days and removing the option of the city to place a lien on the house.
“While we felt there was absolutely an avenue for us to go in and maintain, we felt that it was not broad enough,” Feary said during the regular meeting. “In order for us to say what we can not only trim, we can remove, we can do all of these things, we did not feel that was a clear ordinance.”
Ward IV Councilor Herb McSpadden questioned the three-day appeal timeframe.
City Attorney Bryan Drummond said the timeline was based off another city that was similar to the size of Claremore.
Feary said he wants the contractor to be able to service an area all at one time.
“I want them to be able to move fluidly because the faster they move, the more bang for our buck that they get,” he said. “Having to come back and having to wait, if we extend that seven days or 10, that adds expensive potential contract that adds time to the contract.”
If a tree is in the right-of-way, the city owns that property.
If a tree is in the easement, the property owner owns it. However, the city has the right to maintain the tree for the safety of the utility that is present.
If a tree is outside the easement, but hangs over the easement line then the tree will be trimmed up the easement line.
Before the amendment, the city could place a lien on a property owners house if the owners did not trim their trees after receiving the notice. Drummond said this was removed.
Feary said they have an obligation to take care of those trees if they’re growing through the power lines.
“This ordinance amending … provides absolute clarity that we can and will come in and maintain those easements,” he said.