Editorial: Aiken mayor insists SCE&G work with city to properly trim trees

August 31, 2018

In recent weeks, Aiken City Council and I have been working closely with South Carolina Electric and Gas to protect the beloved tree canopy that is such an important part of our heritage in this community.

Today, I admit to being frustrated with the way the utility has moved forward with its work while seemingly ignoring a key element of those discussions.

During a City Council meeting earlier this month, SCE&G told us trimming would be required in some of our more historic neighborhoods following a recent power outage downtown which was caused by a fallen limb.

As your mayor, I listened and explained that we all understood judicious trimming of trees near power lines is a fact of life. I went on to ask that the company do the trimming in the most gentle and limited way possible.

More importantly, I asked that SCE&G contractors consult with the city’s forest management firm, Bartlett Tree Experts, on any work to be done. SCE&G assured me, the City Council and the people of Aiken in that very public forum that the company would do just that.

To my utter dismay, I began receiving calls early Wednesday morning from concerned residents along Colleton Avenue. Bartlett Tree Experts personnel were nowhere in sight, but SCE&G contractors were liberally trimming trees in the area. I am very disappointed that just two weeks after making the commitment to work with the city’s chosen arborists to guide the work, this important commitment has fallen by the wayside.

Remember, this city and its residents think so highly of the trees here that the Aiken Land Conservancy and private donor Rob Johnston went to great expense to fund a city inventory and management plan for our urban forest.

That extensive study, conducted by Bartlett over the course of 2017, found that Aiken’s trees have more than $130 million in impact on our city. While $130 million may already seem like a lot, I’d say they are worth far more. They are priceless to us.

Today, I take to this forum to make sure my message to SCE&G is transmitted as effectively as the power they send through their transmission lines.

The City of Aiken is willing to work with you on the proper trimming of trees to ensure safe and effective power supply to customers of this city. However, we insist that you work with us and observe our high regard for our urban forest.

To me, this means keeping the commitment you’ve made to consult with our tree experts every step of the way as you conduct your work. If there is a disagreement in the balancing of the needs of the power system and the needs of our trees as the trimming proceeds, we must agree to sit down and agree on the best path forward. After all, we can always agree to trim a little more later, but once a tree is damaged, the road to recovery is a long one.

Rick Osbon, mayor

City of Aiken