Town Council approves $7,000 matching grant

By Evan Pajer - Staff Writer
East Hartford - posted Thu., Nov. 15, 2012
Trees like this one outside of East Hartford Town Hall would be part of the tree inventory program.
Trees like this one outside of East Hartford Town Hall would be part of the tree inventory program.

The East Hartford Town Council agreed on Nov. 13 to match a $7,000 grant from the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to fund a program that will hire an outside arborist to take inventory of up to 2,000 trees on public property. The matching funds were approved by a 6-3 vote during the regular meeting. Findings from the program will be made available on a new website that will include suggestions to the town for replanting and maintenance.

The inventory will cover the area between Pitkin and King streets, while also including Raymond Library, Alumni Green and Town Hall. Public Works Director Tim Bockus said the program will assess what trees growing in the downtown area need to survive. Trees in East Hartford face harsh conditions that include road salt and car emissions. “There's a lot that goes into the process,” Bockus said. “Just because a tree grows in New England does not mean it's the best tree.” Bockus noted that the initial assessment will make reccomendations on how to maintain the town's trees, and will establish a set of best practices for pruning.

The grant will not cover any replanting or trimming, which Bockus said the town would have to pay for once the assessment is complete. He noted that the town could re-apply to DEEP for another grant that would help pay for work resulting from the inventory. At least $500 of the $14,000 grant must be used for an educational component of the program, Bockus said.

At stake are potential tourism dollars for the town, which has been designated as a “Tree City” by the Arbor Day Foundation for 16 years - one of only 19 towns in the state to receive that designation. “It all comes down to one thing - marketing East Hartford,” said Council member Marc Weinberg.

The proposal was met with mixed reactions by members of the Council, with some questioning why the program was necessary. “With the economy we are in today, it does not seem like a priority to take an inventory of trees,” said Council member Patricia Harmon. Others, including Esther Clarke and Ram Aberasturia, were reluctant to match the grant money. “It's money I would not like to spend, but it's for the town's future,” Aberasturia said.

Council Chair Rich Kehoe was in favor of the program. “Over the years, the town has spent thousands of dollars on trees. We ought to be doing it right,” he said. “If we don't understand what the trees need, we are not being smart with our dollars.”

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