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Wednesday, March 21 News

Forum set Tuesday on UI's tree-trimming program in Fairfield

A public forum on United Illuminating's controversial tree-trimming and removal program will be held in Fairfield next week.

The meeting is set for 7 p.m. Tuesday at Tomlinson Middle School, 200 Unquowa Road, and will include a presentation by representatives of the utility company and comments from the public.

"Based on requests for more information on UI's plan to trim or remove trees, I want our citizens, business owners and any organization with trees that may be recommended for pruning or removal, to receive an opportunity to attend this meeting and give input before UI starts this program," First Selectman Michael Tetreau said.

At a Board of Selectmen meeting in March, a similar presentation raised more questions than answers for town officials. The town has estimated between 20,000 and 25,000 trees could be removed in town under UI's eight-year plan, and for those on public property, the tree warden would be involved in the notification process.

Tetreau questioned where the money for funding the town's share of the work would come from, and likened the project to an unfunded mandate. He was also concerned about the notification process for owners of property abutting public sites.

A bill passed in May by the state General Assembly increases the public's role in how and when trees are cut back under a utility's trimming program, including review by the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection; requiring the establishment of a mediation process, and clarifying the rights of those with a tree entirely on private property and those whose property abuts trees in a public right-of-way.

The tree-trimming and removal is designed to prevent power outages that falling trees and limbs caused in recent severe storms.