News Feature

Originally published in Castine Patriot, May 18, 2023
Tree warden reports to select board on elms
Elm disease is back with a vengeance

by David Avery

The select board gathered at Emerson Hall at 4 p.m. on May 15 and heard from Tree Warden Don Tenney that “Dutch Elm disease is back with a vengeance up and down the coast.”

He reported that the past year was a rough one for elm trees in Castine and many had to be removed due to the disease. Most of those removed were on private property, he said. Only two were streetscape trees, according to Tenney.

The Tree Committee is “delighted that the town has awarded us $25,000,” he told the board. Unfortunately, much of that money is going toward tree removal rather than treatment to prevent the disease, he reported.

The committee has about $53,000 to spend on removal, stump grinding and treatment this year.

“You will see Bill Burman and his workers around town all summer injecting 34 trees,” he told the board.

The treatment is effective. The town has not lost a treated tree, Tenney said. Some trees are not treated because they are already compromised and the treatment is expensive, he said.

On Friday, May 19, Tenney was to travel to Augusta to be part of an event sponsored by Project Canopy. He suggested Castine will receive an award.

Project Canopy is a state initiative to educate people about the virtues of trees, according to its website.

Other business

In other news, the select board approved two warrants: a general fund warrant for approximately $70,000 and a water warrant for $20,000.

In the town manager’s report, Shawn Blodgett thanked town employees Karen Motycka and Sue Macomber for their work in preparing for Town Meeting as well as carrying it off that day. He also thanked Natalie Griffith and Robin Mass for their exemplary work on Saturday at the meeting.

Blodgett also asked the board to move $10,000 from contingency funds to help the town pay vendors on time. There is work underway to install heat pumps and complete other energy saving projects around town. Those projects carry with them a rebate process, which Blodgett fears will interrupt the normal payment of vendors as typically happens. The contingency funds would ensure that the vendors get paid in a timely fashion. The board approved 3-0.

Blodgett also recommended that the town replace its one-ton work truck even though it has only 58,000 miles on it. The truck is 11 years old. He suggested that town trucks age quickly because they are not garaged or routinely washed, and the rust gets to them.

Blodgett said he would return to the board with an option for a new vehicle that might be a hybrid or electric, depending on incentives being offered by the state. The vehicle would have to meet the town’s needs, he said. He also reported that there is a “healthy vehicle reserve” fund in the budget.

Blodgett reported on a maintenance project at the Dyce’s Head Lighthouse where sills have been found to be rotten. He suggested that the town needs to address the root cause of drainage in the area.

The Castine public water supply’s surface water ponds on Battle Avenue were tested for the presence of the pathogenic parasites cryptosporidium and giardia, Blodgett told the board. The testing revealed no pathogens in the drinking water ponds even before treatment. The water from the surface ponds is filtered and treated with chlorine before it enters the pipes of the public water system, he said.

The test was necessitated because one person in town was diagnosed with a “crypto” infection, according to Blodgett. He is confident that the infection did not come from the town’s drinking water.

Street striping needs to be done, but money is tight due to cost overruns in public works, Blodgett reported. Motycka and Blodgett will have to “crunch some numbers” to come up with a plan for street striping.

During the public comments section of the meeting, the board heard from resident Liz Parish who noted that sidewalks as well as streets need to be cleared of sand and gravel.

Resident Arnold Berleant expressed some dismay at the expansion of Maine Maritime Academy coming at the expense of the character of the town. Board member Roberta Boczkiewicz suggested that his concerns are timely and he should bring them to the Comprehensive Planning Committee, which has been meeting for more than a year and is about to wrap up its work this summer.