West Memphis trims the cost of tree-trimming

Utility crews working to get limbs cut ahead of spring storm season

By John Rech news@theeveningtimes.com

West Memphis residents should soon see miles of difference. The Utilities Department is proactively working harder than a Motel 6 to “keep the lights on for you” after severe storms. The way the Utilities Department sought bids for trimming trees along power lines was modified this year. The old way of paying for tree trimming by the pound is gone. Now area trimming has been specified in the bidding process. Electrical Superintendent Foster Rash went out on a limb to get the work bid differently and the results put the city miles ahead. Rash reported to the Utilities Commission during the March meeting. Bids for the work this year were divided into three projects. The first phase was bid in November. Phase two bid solicitation was in February. March 16 is the date for the last part of the planned tree trimming bids to go out in 2016. “So far 26 miles of line have been approved to trim,” said Rash. “With the last phase it will be thirty one miles. We initially bid out two areas instead of three because we didn’t know what the bids would be.” But savings are up and more tree branches are coming down than ever according to the superintendent, so a third project was planned. The first two projects cover certain parts of the city east of Missouri Street, part of Westwood Acres and some the “B” streets near Avondale Elementary. With the money saved on the work thus far the third phase targets the Hulbert area on the south side of town and some streets in Richland just west of Rich Road. “We’ll see large crews here around the middle of April,” said Rash. Assistant Utilities Manager Todd Pedersen lined out the justification for the additional work to commissioners requested by Rash. “The reason he did this was in previous years the $450,00 total tree trimming budget was based on pounds. We were getting about eight miles for the entire year. We decided in the middle of last year to go this way and it will really benefit us. “ 2016 area cutting is expected to cover nearly four times the area along 31 miles of city lines and poles. The city goal aimed to cut each area on a five year cycle. Rash outlined hopes for next year which addresses an area long overdue. “There is and area from southeast 7th Street all the way to 25th Street that needs to be retrimmed,” said Rash. “It was last done in ‘07. That is a large area with a lot of lines. It’s grown up. There are some other areas to look at based on the five year trim.” Much of the expenses related to the by the pound method was having contractor crews stationed in the city year round to help in the case of storm damage. “In case of storm situations we still have them ready to go,” said Rash of the area cut method. “If we need extra help with a large outage they are to help.” “Long-term this will be better for us,” said Pedersen. “The more trimming we do the fewer outages we should have.” Commission Chairman Dana Parker put the news in a nutshell. “We’re getting a lot more coverage for the dollar spent than we previously got,” said Parker.


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