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Glitch stalls felling of trees in Amherst County OK needed; delay pleases some

Today was the day the trees were supposed to come down in Amherst.

But town officials learned Tuesday the work cannot start until there is a legal agreement in place between the town and Erie County, which will oversee the work. And that could take weeks to accomplish.

"I'm just disappointed," Highway Superintendent Robert Anderson said.

Some town residents apparently do not share Anderson's disappointment. On Culpepper Road near Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital, signs were posted on trees Tuesday reading "Stop the NY chainsaw massacre." Jane Milholland said she was clueless as to who posted the flyers on three trees slated for removal at her end of the block. However, she did not quarrel with the sentiments expressed in them.

"I'd like to see them left. I don't see why they would be taking them down. They may need a little trimming, but they've come back. What's the problem? What's the big deal?" Milholland said

"If there are some that . . . are looking three-fourths dead, that's a different story. But these are not three-fourths dead," she added.

Carl Gebauer was equally puzzled by the appearance of the flyers. While he was not averse to seeing trees removed that cannot be salvaged, he said he hoped the town would use an arborist's judgment before deciding to arbitrarily remove trees on the block.
"There's an infinite scale of trees that should be taken down or left alone. I mean, it's going to be a judgment call," Gebauer said.

It's going to be some time before any trees come down. Anderson said he learned Tuesday afternoon that there was a bit of red tape to be dealt with before the county's tree removal contractors can start work in Amherst.

That could take weeks, according to Erie County Deputy Public Works Commissioner Gerald Sentz.

"Amherst has now asked us to remove the trees, that's fine. But you have to go through the steps first. We need an agreement between the county and the Town of Amherst before anything can start," Sentz said.

Unless the County Legislature holds a special session, the first time that body can respond to Amherst's request will be at its July 5 regular meeting.

One reason Anderson is eager to start the tree removals is the price. Anderson told Town Board members he has never seen prices as low as the county has obtained from contractors.

Prices start at $141 for removing trees with trunks up to 24 inches in diameter and go up to $331 for removing trees with trunks of up to 4 feet across.

The latest figures released by town officials indicate the Oct. 12 storm damaged about 8,000 town-owned trees in Amherst. Of these, about 1,063 are listed as "high to severe risks" to public safety and are either dead or nearly dead.

All trees are on town rights of way or in parks, officials said.

The remaining 7,000 trees are listed as "minimal to moderate" safety risks and are in poor to fair condition.

Town Supervisor Satish B. Mohan urged Town Board members to give the 7,000 trees another year to demonstrate whether they can survive. Mohan also said Paul Maurer of Re-TREE WNY estimated that the group can help Amherst secure donations of up to 1,000 replacement trees.

e-mail: tdolan@buffnews.com and hmcneil@buffnews.com

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