Utility tree-trimming in Shelton: ‘Disastrous’ or necessary?

Mayor Mark Lauretti said while he knows the extensive tree-trimming work being done by United Illuminating (UI) upsets some Shelton residents, it’s also important to remember the role that trees play in causing power outages.

“I understand that in Connecticut we like our trees, but people also don’t like it when they lose power because of a storm,” Lauretti said. “So what’s the answer?”

The mayor’s office has been receiving calls for the past few months from homeowners unhappy with the tree-trimming by UI.

Lauretti said that during his travels around Connecticut, he has observed tree-trimming crews working in many towns. “I see them all over the state, so it’s not unique to Shelton,” he said.

Concerns in White Hills

The complaints in Shelton have been centered in White Hills, perhaps the city’s most rural neighborhood. People have said the zealousness of the UI work is destroying that area’s rural character.

In response, UI officials have said the work is in line with a new state policy designed to minimize the impact of winter storms and that any work outside the public right-of-way requires permission from a property owner.

UI officials also met with Lauretti and the Board of Aldermen before the work started, and have sent letters to customers in areas where the work was to be done.

‘Disastrous...like an atomic bomb'

John Grogan, who lives in White Hills, called the tree-trimming “disastrous. On Route 110 it looks like an atomic bomb was detonated and left only one half of each tree.

“When people come to visit us, they ask the same question — ‘What happened?’” Grogan wrote in a letter he sent to Alderman Jack Finn raising concerns about the utility’s tree-trimming program.

Grogan said he chose to live in White Hills because of its natural beauty, but “the current de-neutering of trees is leaving a bare landscape and can do nothing for property values.”

He wondered when electric rate-payers would get the bill for all the work. “Is there a budget, or is it just cut and destroy until someone wakes up to the cost?” Grogan asked.

Guinea pig and tree stumps

Other White Hills residents complained their neighborhood seems to be getting used as a guinea pig for the rest of the city, and the extent of the work may be “reined in” as it progresses to other sections of Shelton and nearby towns.

They also are upset that tree-cutting crews seem to be leaving a trail of tree stumps behind.

“There are huge, ugly stumps everywhere on some roads,” said one White Hills resident, who preferred not to be identified. “We’re going to become the free firewood capital of the world.”

This resident said the whole project “has been overdone. It looks like a multitude of tornadoes came through.”

Some critics pointed out that UI’s tree-trimming plans are being scaled back in some communities where major objections have been raised.

'Needs to be stopped and evaluated'

Lauretti said the tree-trimming is the responsibility of UI, and was approved by state regulators. “It’s the law now,” he said, referring to the state’s new utility protection zone legislation.

But Grogan, in his letter, said the work should be stopped and re-assessed before starting again. “I believe that before this damage gets even worse, that this whole program needs to be reviewed by the city,” he said.

“I realize that the mayor and board [of aldermen] signed on to to this program, but now it needs to be stopped and evaluated,” Grogan continued. “Certainly none of you elected officials signed on to a program that would ruin the nature of our city.”