Shade Tree Commission Debates PSE&G Gift

OBJECTORShade Tree Commissioner Arnie Schmidt said he was not in favor of taking PSE&G’s offer of 40 free trees because the area targeted for them has not yet been prepared.

An offer by Public Service Electric & Gas to give 40 trees to the Township received a rocky reception at the October 26 Shade Tree Commission meeting.

After a nearly hour-long discussion, the Commission voted to accept the gift, with some caveats.

The Shade Tree Commission is responsible for promoting the “conservation and stewardship of trees throughout the Township by advising Township officials regarding planting, care and maintenance of trees on Township-owned lands,” according to the Commission’s web page.

The issue some Commissioners had with the offer is that the area for which they are targeted, a stretch along John F. Kennedy Boulevard, still has many dying trees that need to be marked and removed before any new trees should be planted. They said the plan should be postponed until the Spring.

Proponents of the plan argued that the Township should welcome PSE&G’s largess, and that the offer may not be repeated in the future.

It was not known why PSE&G decided to offer the Township the trees, although Conner Ferretti, the Public Works Department representative on the Commission, said he would find out.

Commission Arnie Schmidt was the main objector.

“There’s still leaves on the trees and there’s so many trees that are dead on the top and they’re never going to grow, and they still need to be removed,” he said. “Then there’s placement of trees, spacing of trees. We haven’t had any opportunity to meet anybody there. There are places where certain trees can be planted, and certain trees can’t be planted.”

“I think this is a plan that is being rushed through because they’re being donated by PSE&G. I would like to see this pushed off til the Spring so we can have some input on this,” he said.

Commissioner Mary Lauko disagreed with Schmidt.

“I think Fall is a great time to plant trees, and if they’re willing to do it now, do it now,” she said. “We should strike while the iron is hot.”

“The wrong tree in the wrong place is not a good idea,” Commission chairman Steve Gillooly said. “If we could put it off to the Spring and come up with a long-term plan, that’s great.”

“I wonder if this gift will be around again,” he said. “I’d rather get the trees in the ground, in the right places, with care.”

“I agree with part of what you’re saying,” Schmidt said. “There’s still an opportunity, and I’d be willing to go out there with a spray can and spray on a dozen trees or more that still need to come down, which would help with the spacing of the trees.”

“JFK is a showcase for Franklin Township,” Schmidt said. “We didn’t get it right the first time. It is sort of a showcase long road, and it can be a beautiful road with the right trees properly planted and properly spaced, and maintained. To go into this without proper planning, without our input … that’s why I objected.”

“My thought was, some trees are better than none,” Gillooly said.

“My thought is, right tree, right place, right time,” Schmidt said.

Slightly exasperated, Gillooly said, “We have not put a single tree on JFK in years to replace the dead trees. This is an opportunity to do it at no cost to the town, with experts putting them in … they’re not going to put in a dead tree, they’re not going to put a tree in under a wire, they’re not going to put … a Southern variety that won’t grow. We’re going to get appropriate trees from an appropriate vendor at no cost or effort from our town.”

“I think we would be silly, and it would be a disservice to the town, to give up this opportunity,” he said.

Gillooly then made a motion to accept the trees, but with conditions.

“If this offer cannot be delayed, and if this offer allows us to have input in the types of trees and locations … we give them the varieties, we make sure they’re appropriate, that is what we’re approving,” he said.

“If the answer is it cannot be postponed, we can pick the trees and we direct the location, my motion is we accept the offer,” he said. “If it can be postponed, if we can’t have input, then we don’t give our approval.”

Lauko cast the lone “no” vote.

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