New city policy makes tree pick-up easy

Getting your trees picked up for free after a storm got a little easier.

Following up on a discussion from last week, Columbus Council approved a new city policy that reduces the steps needed to waive collection fees in an area where bad weather has downed trees.

Now, instead of going through council, the mayor and city manager can make the decision immediately after a storm to temporarily waive the fee.

"I think this is a good plan; I endorse it wholeheartedly," said councilor Gary Allen just before the vote.

Typically, the city declared a moratorium after intense storms, such as the tornado that ravaged much of north Columbus on March 1. But residents affected by a smaller storm Aug. 19, which caused isolated damage off Forrest Road in east Columbus, wanted to know why they didn't get a break, too.

Under the Tree for Fee program, started in 2003, residents pay $50 per load and $14 per ton for city crews to haul away a fallen tree. The program has generated about $50,000 revenue.

After any storm that causes damage, the director of the city's department of Public Services and the department's division manager for waste collection will check affected areas and submit boundaries for debris pickup and a recommendation to the city manager, according to the new policy.

It then will be up to the city manager and mayor whether to implement a moratorium that wouldn't exceed 30 days.

Councilor Glenn Davis said he favors the change, but is concerned that some tree service companies might take advantage of residents by leaving what they cut up piled at the curb, yet charge full price as though there were hauling off the debris.

"The city will be hauling the trees off so therefore they should receive a discount and not be charged an excessive amount to make that happen," he said.