Dayton citizens voted unanimously in favor of a moratorium on tree cutting in the township.
Nearly 50 people attended Dayton’s annual meeting Tuesday, April 16. Most of them were there to voice their opposition to the town’s policy of cutting back and cutting down trees within the right-of-way of rural roads in Dayton.
Bob Ellis, a county board supervisor who represents about two-thirds of Dayton’s residents, introduced the motion for a moratorium.
“A lot of people have been yelling in my ear on a lot of fronts,” Elllis said.
He questioned the town board’s priorities and noted that Dayton has drastically increased its budget for road maintenance, with much of the money going to removing trees.
“We’re talking $120,000 to $150,000 in equipment,” Ellis said. “It’s money gone from your wallet and mine to create this business. Why are we even in this business?”
Noting that the town of Scandinavia was spending about $8,300 annually for road maintenance, Ellis questioned why Dayton needs to spend more than 10 times that amount.
Ellis read from a letter from the Waupaca School District’s transportation office asking that dangling branches be removed from specific sites to avoid scratching school buses.
Ellis said the town’s response has been to encourage residents to remove all trees and brush within 23 feet of the edge of the road.
Ellis made a motion for a moratorium on “all this cutting and hacking until we put some sobriety into this equation.”
He later amended the proposed moratorium until a committee overseeing the tree cutting could be formed,
Noting that Town Chairman Chris Klein has defended his tree-cutting program on the grounds that it makes town roads safer to travel, Kay Ellis presented her research on the number of accidents on town, county and state roads in Dayton from 2005 rhrough 2012.
She found that there had been a total of 344 traffic accidents, excluding deer/vehicle crashes, in Dayton over the eight-year period. Of those, 179 occurred on State Highway 22 and County Roads K, Q and QQ, while165 occurred on town roads.
“There’s not one intersection that had more than three accidents in eight years,” Kay Ellis said. “Fifteen cars a day come down my road. Are you saying somebody could cut down 100 trees on my road for those 15 cars?”
Ellis said she wanted the moratorium in place until a tree committee could begin working with the town board to review intersections and look at the properties where the trees would be cut.
Among the recommended members of the committee would be Marylin Dixon, Bob Welch and Gary Elmer.
“We want people whose trees are going to be cut to receive written notification,” Ellis said. “I think there’s a lot more communication that needs to be happening here.”
When a voice vote was taken on the moratorium, the response was a resounding “aye.” No one voiced opposition to the moratorium on cutting down trees along Dayton’s roads.
After the vote, Klein informed those present that the resolution was no more than an advisory vote.
“Isn’t this a mandatory directive to the town board,” Carol Strand asked.
Klein said no, that state law only allowed the electors attending an annual meeting a limited authority.
“You should understand the strong feelings of the electors here,” Strand told Klein. She said the majority of those on the tree committee should make decisions about the tree cutting.
“It’s not a tree committee that gets sued, it’s the town board that gets sued,” Klein said, regarding liability if there is a crash involving a tree.
Maggie Elmer stood up and addressed the audience about her personal experience with tree cutting in Dayton.
“We live on Skyview Lane, a dead end road,” she said. “Come take a look and see what can happen to your road.”
Ellmer described how the trees, shrubs, “a beautiful spruce,” were all cut down on her road near her home.
“The pine trees were cut so far back, they look like palm trees with pine needles,” she said.
“We’ve changed the directives to the guys who trim the trees,” Klein responded.
“It’s too late now. Those trees were butchered,” Elmer said.
Read the rest of the story on Dayton’s annual meeting in the April 25 County Post West.