Selectman Sisitsky: NSTAR Tree Cutting a 'Public Relations Disaster'
Residents of the Oaks neighborhood, who appealed to Framingham Selectmen, were able to question NSTAR face-to-face at a special meeting on the utility company's tree cutting; but received few answers.
After NSTAR left mangled leaves and tree branches around the Oaks Neighborhood, cut trees down to the stump instead of just trimming branches at Reardon Park, took out trees on scenic Lake Road and tried to cut trees at Saxonville Beach, Framingham neighborhoods appealed to Framingham Selectmen and Town Leaders to order the company to explain their actions.
Wednesday night Framingham Selectmen held a special meeting to address residents concerns and to hear what NSTAR had to say.
About 150 concerned residents attended the meeting, as did all five selectmen, NSTAR Community Relations and Economic Specialist, JoAnne O’Leary and Framingham Tree Warden Dan Nau.
Opening the meeting by calling the situation with NSTAR, “a public relations disaster," Framingham Selectmen Chair Charles Sisitsky asked O’Leary to explain what happened and why.
O’Leary said the power transmission system is interconnected and covers other towns from Sherborn to Sudbury. To ensure all customers get power, they must clear the area around power lines to prevent disruptions in power transmission. (Sudbury residents have been protesting the tree cutting, too.)
O' Leary said rapid population increases in the past 30 years has made it more important than ever for the transmission to be free of any interception.
“You would all agree that Framingham has changed,” said O’Leary.
Sisitsky said it was NSTAR that had changed.
“Something has happened within NSTAR that has changed its policy on vegetation management," Sisitsky said. “Why has it changed? Is it lack of proper maintenance?”
O’Leary defended NSTAR. She said residents of the Oak neighborhood that were affected by the tree-cutting were given adequate notice - a gesture she said was not legally mandated of NSTAR, as the easements in question were not on private property.
Selectmen Jason Smith and Dennis Giombetti pressed that NSTAR should have held a public meeting to inform residents about NSTAR's plans to clear the area around power lines.
“You should be ashamed of yourself," Smith said.
Pressing on the absence of a public meeting, Selectman Laurie Lee called NSTAR’s lack of pre-work "‘lazy" and reiterated that “something has changed internally at NSTAR."
O'Leary did not comment on any internal changes nor did she comment on who specifically at NSTAR made the decision to cut down the trees in the Oaks neighborhood.
Selectmen would like to see tree cutting in Framingham continue to be halted until NSTAR answers who made the decisions to cut and how they plan to fix the issue, including re-planting.
NSTAR had agreed to stop cutting trees until the meeting, but it is unclear if they will begin cutting again in the morning.
Massachusetts General Law (Chapter 87, section 3) says trees shall not be cut, trimmed, or removed without permission from the tree warden.
Framingham Tree Warden Dan Nau said he learned of the tree cutting from upset residents. The company never directly contacted him on its plans to cut down trees in Framingham - be it Reardon Park, Saxonville Beach or any other road in Framingham.
After statements from NSTAR and officials, residents were given the chance to speak.
Andy Ferguson spoke on behalf of the Oaks Neighborhood Association. He said the Association is cognizant of NSTAR’s obligation and right to access their power lines but they are angry about the company’s lack of communication.
“This was not being green, this was a scorched earth campaign,” Ferguson said.
The damage has been done. Trees all over Precinct 3 have been cut to the stump.
Residents asked NSTAR how they are going to restore the area.
O’Leary said that NSTAR has no plans at this time to do any replanting.
Overwhelmingly the standing room crowd was unhappy with NSTAR, but one Framingham resident Jay Finch was not.
“[Most of the people at this meeting] do not represent the whole town,” Finch said. "People’s livelihood depend on those power lines."
He took the position that most people in Framingham would rather lose trees than lose power.
Oaks Neighborhood Association President Josh Mulready said last week his neighborhood did not lose power like others in town last year during the two storms. Residents who did lose power, the cause was a wire detaching from their house, he said.