Trustees, officials say free removal of all downed trees would overwhelm limited DPW staff
The Village of Saukville makes a distinction in its free chipping service between tree branches that have been pruned and those left behind after a tree has been taken down.
At least one village resident thinks the policy is unfair.
Every Monday from mid-April through October, a village crew takes a chipper around the community, reducing stacked branches left at the curb to wood chips. Branches to be chipped can be no larger than three inches in diameter.
Department of Public Works employees spend as long as 20 minutes at a site chipping branches at no cost to the resident. If more time is needed to clear a brush pile, residents are charged $50 for each additional 20-minute period.
Resident Steve Backhaus appeared before the Village Board recently calling for a more liberal interpretation of the chipping policy.
“I use the chipping service and it’s excellent,” Backhaus told trustees.
However, he said he was told the crew would not chip the remnants of a tree he recently took down on his property.
“What is the difference if the branches come from a tree I took down or one I pruned?” Backhaus asked.
“I already took away the wood and ground out the stump. All I am talking about are the branches.”
Public Works Supt. Ray de Bruijn said the volume of branches left from taking a tree down is much greater than a simple pruning, meaning the crew would have trouble completing the cleanup in the allotted 20 minutes.
“We have been doing this for so long we have a pretty good sense of whether the branches are from a tree removal, because they are of varying size and length,” de Bruijn said.
Checking with neighboring communities, he said similar restrictions are common. Port Washington uses the same 20 minute limit for trimmed branches, and Grafton and Fredonia create a list of properties that are visited when time permits.
Citing the devastating effects the emerald ash borer has had on the community’s tree stock, de Bruijn said the DPW crew would be able to do nothing but chip branches if they were to remove the remnants of every dead tree taken down in the village.
“Clearing a large ash tree is going to take considerably more than 20 minutes,” he added.
“With the number of trees that are going to have to come down in the next five years, you are talking about a substantial amount of time.”
Since the blight hit the community, de Bruijn estimated as many as 1,000 trees have been taken down.
Village officials applauded Backhaus for the attention he pays to the appearance of his property, but said property owners need to understand they are responsible for the maintenance of their own trees.
“What you do with your trees on your property is your responsibility,” Village President Barb Dickmann said.
Dickmann said the chipping program is meant to help residents with routine property maintenance.
Expanding the chipping service could mean having to hire more DPW workers, added Trustee Joe Caban. The department currently has four employees.
“As a taxpayer, I don’t want to think about having to hire another person and raise taxes,” Caban said.
Trustees agreed to have the Public Works Committee review the wording of the chipping policy so it is clear to residents what service they can expect.
One benefit of the chipping service is that the village offers free wood chips from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays at the DPW yard, 649 S. Main St.
Arrangements can also be made for delivery of truckloads of chips of up to five cubic yards, by calling 284-0545. Return visits will not be made to collect unused wood chips.