Jackson not done cleaning up limbs from February ice storm

Friday, August 8, 2008

While Jackson's Parks and Recreation Department is cleaning up damaged tree limbs from February's ice storm, at least one parks project has been put on hold.

Kent Peetz, the city engineer in Jackson, stressed a parks wetland project was only in the idea stage before the ice storm hit the city. But the ice storm was the main reason the idea has stalled. Peetz said he was too busy planning tree limb cleanup efforts after the ice storm to think about the wetlands project.

The wetland project was meant to act as a demonstration project for people coming to Jackson's parks, Peetz said. He said he wanted to plant trees in front of retention basins in order to show how to slow down water drainage. Trees in front of the basins suck up some of the drainage and keep the basin from filling up as quickly.

Peetz said he doesn't know when construction of the wetlands project will begin, but it won't begin before the end of 2008. He has to finish the tree limb cleanup before he can begin on the wetland.

Currently, workers are busy removing hanging tree limbs in Jackson's parks. A Jackson Board of Aldermen project progress update for Monday's meeting reported more than 1,603 limbs on 764 park trees were damaged in the ice storm that hit the city in mid-February.

The parks department has removed about half of the limbs, but all of Jackson's four parks still have some that need to be removed, said Shane Anderson, the director of the parks and recreation department.

After the storm, Jackson secured relief funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which also set a completion date of mid-September, city administrator Jim Roach said. If the cleanup crews in Jackson can't meet the date, they will lose all of the funding for the cleanup project, which is estimated at $30,000, Roach said.

Roach said timely cleanup efforts were hindered by lack of manpower and the size of the task.

"There's only four park workers, so they can only focus on very limited jobs at a time," he said.

A rainy spring also delayed work, Anderson said. Many limbs were so high up that workers had to be lifted up to them in a boom truck's bucket seat, Anderson said. The boom truck couldn't drive on much parkland because the ground was too soggy.

After the rains, work sped up, Anderson said.

"Two months ago, they were doing it one or two days a week," Roach said about the workers cleaning up limbs. "Now, we're probably trimming limbs three days a week. They still have their everyday jobs of mowing yards and making the parks look nice."

Roach said he expects the limb-removal process to be finished close to the date set by FEMA.



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