An arborist will begin taking a second look at hundreds of trees in Amherst that were damaged in a freak snowstorm last October.
The Town Board during a special meeting Monday agreed to hire William A. Snyder of Amherst for the job. The trees have been previously examined by experts, but if Snyder's analysis is the same as the previous inspectors, thousands of trees in the town could be coming down.
Town lawmakers Monday said they are not in any rush to cut down viable trees, but they also want to avoid potential lawsuits by mistakenly letting dangerous trees stand.
"We don't agree on many things as a board, but this is one we all agree on," Amherst Councilman William L. Kindel said in a brief telephone interview after Monday's meeting.
"There's no rush to judgment. We want to give those trees that will [stand] every opportunity to recover, because trees add so much to the value and general quality of life in the town."
The fate of nearly 7,000 trees damaged in the October Surprise snowstorm will likely rest with Snyder's analysis. Kindel said Snyder was chosen from among 30 arborists who responded to the town's request for proposals.
"He was the best," Kindel said.
Snyder, who is highly rated by the American Society of Arborists, according to Town Attorney E. Thomas Jones, operates a business on Bennington Road in the town. Kindel said Snyder will survey a sample of roughly 10 percent of the trees.
The trees in question are those that have been classified by previous inspectors as being a moderate risk for not recovering from the effects of the storm. Some town residents have taken issue with their evaluation and have requested that some trees be given more time to recover.
"But in order for us to avoid liability, we need an expert to evaluate these trees that have been classified as a moderate risk," Jones said.
Erie County had previously engaged an arborist from Ohio to evaluate the town's damaged trees, but Jones said the inventory that was taken provided the town only "raw data that hasn't been analyzed."
Jones said Snyder will conduct a sampling of trees in the town's quadrants. Snyder, he said, also has liability experience as it pertains to potentially dangerous trees.
Snyder will be paid $85 an hour for his services, Jones said.
Kindel said the Federal Emergency Management Agency will reimburse the town for the cost of cutting down damaged trees, but only those that are cut down by October.
Using guidelines established by FEMA, that could be anywhere between 7,000 and 9,000 trees in the town that could be eligible for reimbursement.
Amherst Councilman Daniel J. Ward said Monday that he supported the decision to hire an arborist to assist the town in its evaluation but simultaneously expressed concern about the action.
"I'm curious as to why this had to be done right now," Ward said, "and wonder whether it's a political fig leaf to give cover to all those politicians who wanted all the glory for saving the trees but are using the arborist as a cover for when [the trees] have to come down, anyway."