PennDOT to pay for tree removal

PennDOT representatives have agreed to remove dozens of Broad Avenue trees damaged last week by what some called overzealous pruning, city officials said at a Wednesday council meeting.

But the mangled trees – their limbs shorn by contractors during routine maintenance work – could remain in place until November, City Manager Joe Weakland said.

City officials will hold a public meeting in about a month to solicit requests and ideas from those living near the affected trees, which Weakland and Mayor Bill Schirf stressed don’t pose a falling threat to cars or passers-by. They could eventually be replaced, but work will be postponed until fall because of statewide tree-removal restrictions meant to protect the endangered Indiana bat, Weakland said.

PennDOT “agreed to take out almost all of the trees,” Weakland said.

The possible replacements could be smaller and more manageable than their predecessors, Schirf said. Some of the trees are small enough to remain.

PennDOT representatives were not available for comment Wednesday evening.

“What we’re looking for is a way to remedy a very serious issue … something that should not have happened,” Schirf told reporters after the meeting.

PennDOT representatives have been cooperative, agreeing to pay for the tree removal, he said.

Who will pay other expenses, like replacement trees and possible sidewalk repairs, still has to be determined, but residents won’t be asked to pay for the new trees, Schirf said.

Wednesday’s city-PennDOT meeting followed a Broad Avenue tour Tuesday, in which transportation officials, city employees and a tree expert surveyed the damage along roughly seven blocks. The Penn State arborist who accompanied the officials said the work had exposed prior damage in many of the trees.

Some locals called the work by contractor Grannas Brothers Stone and Asphalt Co. Inc. “hideous” and “awful.” City officials had said the work didn’t follow municipal rules. PennDOT has said Grannas was following its contract specifications.

But by working closely with PennDOT and the Shade Tree Commission, city representatives could secure a fresh start for the otherwise overgrown and cracked streetscape along Broad Avenue, they said.

While Weakland said the state bat regulations will likely prevent any major work until after summer, he and council members appeared confident Wednesday that new trees will eventually be found.

A date has not been set for the public hearing to include Broad Avenue residents, Weakland said.

Mirror Staff Writer Ryan Brown is at 946-7457.