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South Greensburg residents irate over tree felling

| Tuesday, July 8, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

South Greensburg council's decision to fell trees in the community park might lead to future problems, a resident warned the panel on Monday.

“What you have done is expose the borough to this kind of liability ... because you've chosen not to listen,” Deb Muse said.

She was among 20 people in a packed council chamber who questioned the board's decision last month to award a contract to Mt. View Lumber of Smicksburg in Indiana County, to cut the trees for $10,000.

A handful of people protested council's decision in June. The agreement doesn't specify how many trees are to be cut.

Mt. View began felling the trees last week.

Muse questioned whether the borough needed a forestry plan before inviting loggers.

“You're telling me there's no plan, no plan presented, no oversight ... and (not) done from a forestry perspective,” Muse said.

She further questioned the wisdom of eliminating trees from the park, a recreational area she said people visit daily.

Muse recounted going to the park during the weekend and examining 63 felled trees.

“One of them showed signs of rot. These (the others) were pristine trees,” Muse said.

She said she counted tree rings and saw some more than 80 years old, including one about 170 years old.

In a Tribune-Review letter to the editor, forester William Paxton questioned council's decision and said the borough should have received at least $20,000 for the trees, which he described as healthy.

Some of the trees pose safety issues, said William Costelnock, who lives near the park. But he questioned whether the timbering work was put out for bid.

Muse and Suzanne Borza of Greensburg went on to plead with council to stop the timbering — something council members said they can't do.

“There's still time to stop it from getting worse and save a patch of that woods,” Muse said.

“You have a chance to stop right now,” Borza said. “That's what we're here for.”

But the felling of trees can't be stopped, Councilman Bob Thomas replied.

“We already sold the lumber,” he said.

After the meeting, council President Clentin Martin said he spoke with representatives of the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. They said a forestry plan is preferred but did not add that it is required, Martin said.

Some speakers presented incorrect information, he said.

Foresters and potential bidders looked at the trees months ago but were scared off, Martin added.

“If you don't get a bid, what are you going to do?” Martin said. “I can't force people to bid.

“They backed off because of all this pressure,” he said.

Bob Stiles is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-6622 or bstiles@tribweb.com.

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