Trimming of trees irks inn's owner

May 24, 1994|By Traci A. Johnson | Traci A. Johnson,Sun Staff Writer

Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. representatives watched -- business as usual -- as tree cutters worked yesterday near the corner of Frizzellburg and Old Taneytown roads. To them, there was nothing earth-shaking about trimming trees to accommodate utility lines.

But standing across the street from her Frizzellburg home -- the 180-year-old former Frizell Tavern -- Lucy McNeir shook her head as clumps of branches and leaves from her silver maple fell to the ground.

"Doesn't that look horrible?" she asked, peering at the roadside work from beneath a hard hat. "Why not put the poles on the other side?

"This is an old town and this is an historic property," said Ms. McNeir. "I think they should have been more sensitive to the town, to the community."

BGE continued its upgrade of electric service from Union Mills to Frizzellburg by replacing the 40-foot utility poles along Ms. McNeir's property with 55-foot poles.

To provide the area with backup in case of power outages, the utility company is adding another set of wires, and larger poles were needed to support them, said Larry E. Haines Sr., a BGE distribution construction supervisor.

The wires between the existing poles were entwined in Ms. McNeir's two silver maples.

"This is really nothing unique. We have to trim it [the tree] out to ensure the safety of the workers," said Frank Wanken, a BGE state and local affairs representative. "We have tried to meet the concerns of Mrs. McNeir."

Tree limbs close to electric wires can create a short circuit, fall and bring down lines, or endanger BGE employees working on the wires.

Ms. McNeir, a self-employed graphic designer and teacher, said the utility should have accommodated her wishes to help preserve the character of a historic landmark.

The home, tavern, inn and general store once owned by village namesake Nimrod Frizell is one of the oldest structures in Frizzellburg. Ms. McNeir and her husband, Joe Caouette, have lived in and worked to restore the building for 17 years.

"Don't you think it would have been good public relations for the electric company to just say, 'Hey, I understand this is historic property and we respect the town. We're going to put the poles on the other side of the road?' " Ms. McNeir asked Mr. Wanken.

Mr. Wanken replied, "We'd have to get another set of easements from the property owners, and then the other owners will say they don't want the poles over there, either."

BGE contracted with Asplundh Tree Expert Co. to clip the trees and with Riggs-Distler Mechanical and Electrical Construction to put up the poles.

Also on hand were two foresters, one from BGE and the other from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, to make sure the work was done to state specifications, the trees' health wasn't being jeopardized and the cutting did not produce hazards on the road.

"It's ugly," said Beth Trickett, the DNR forester, staring at the tree canopy. "The natural shape isn't what it should be, but I can't say it isn't healthy."

Ms. McNeir said that BGE informed her in March that new poles would be placed along her property, but that nothing was said about removing or pruning her trees.

Later, BGE forester Crystal Cheuvront approached Mr. Caouette about removing the trees.

"We offer removal first to see if they will go for that," Ms. Cheuvront said at the site yesterday. "And then we go for maximum clearance to ensure safety."

Ms. McNeir declined each of the company's other offers, which included free removal of the trees, one of which has a partially rotted trunk, and replacement of the trees with dogwoods, flowering trees and hedges.

And removal was simply not an option.

"Look at what these trees do for the house. All this shade," Ms. McNeir said, walking out of her home into the yard canopied by other large maples. "I love my trees."

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