Thursday, October 15, 2009

Met with Christy Hass

Yesterday I met with Christy Hass. She is the head of maintenance for the City's department of Parks, Recreation & Trees and is also the City's Tree Warden. I now feel like I have a much better understanding of the "how, who, & why" regarding city trees. In fact, Christy's role as Tree Warden is defined by State statute! Thus, stewardship of trees comes from a policy usually putting a tree's best interest first. I also have a more clear understanding of current man-power, equipment, and how tree work is prioritized and scheduled. It is not "high tech" -- yet. Christy and her tree-crew foreman, Fernado Lage have a crew of 5 guys (3 certified to cut) - and 2 trucks with chippers, 1 old truck w/o chipper, and one stump grinder. There is no actual database or master to-do list. Tree work is tasked from mostly complaints or through observations by Fernando. No matter how the request is received, a work-order is generated/printed using the city's Web311 system. These are then prioritized (1, 2 or 3) by Christy and/or Fernando. In addition to the city crews and equipment, money is also allocated annually to supplement and augment the city's capabilities by hiring subcontractors like Asplundh. This year the city had $95,000 budgeted (which was put out to low bid) and indeed added to the city's ability to handle more tree jobs (however many hrs, at bid hourly rate, until money is used up).

As you can imagine, trees alone are a huge job for the Parks department and require a lot of resources and money. However, there is at least one important partner the city has to help with trees: Urban Resources Initiative has been the city's partner for planting and re-planting for the past few years. They are also currently helping convert (a city contracted, now defunct, company's database that was done for the city several years ago yet is unusable in a proprietary/never completely implemented system) and complete a thorough inventory/database of all the city's trees. Paper will hopefully give way to a computerized GIS system (Christy's applying for grant $ for some of the necessary equipment) in the near future to better manage all aspects of the stewardship of our city's trees...

I know there are many tree issues city wide. My advice for now is to either call in your issues to the Tree Line @ 203-946-6971 or use Web 311. (I know you have to register for Web311; but it really helps as work orders are generated from this system so it saves Parks some time. is great too, but not YET intertwined with any of the city's IT systems... stay tuned)

I also chatted and got more background on athletic fields -- soccer fields specifically. A new "master plan" is currently in development. Also I found out that Parks does all the athletic field maintenance for the Board of Ed!

Please email me or call with more questions and issues. It was great that Christy took the time to meet with me! Our conversation will help me dispel many rumors and understand more about "what, how & why" which will provide much needed background for the inevitable $ component that Alders deal with.