Two citizens attended the last regular meeting of the common council of the city of Darlington held on Tuesday, Aug. 4, to bring up a concern regarding an anticipated project by Alliant Energy that will result in the loss of several trees along Washington Street.
Craig and Kendall Sander, of 628 Washington Street, have two maple trees in their front yard that provide shade, some privacy and pleasing aesthetics at the front of their house. But now, they may be in danger of losing those trees.
The Sanders received a letter from Jeremy Williams, director of public works for the city of Darlington, on Friday, Aug. 3 that informed them of Alliant Energy’s intention within the coming weeks to move the power lines that currently run along the back of the houses on the west side of Washington St. to the front of the houses, meaning several of the trees lining the street that are in the city right of way would be coming down, including their two maples.
According to the Sanders, this was the first they had heard of the project and wanted to know exactly what was going on, so they contacted Williams right away.
“He said that Alliant gave the reasoning that moving the lines would be more efficient, cheaper and more convenient,” said Kendall Sander. “We’re just really glad that Jeremy contacted us, because we know he didn’t have to and otherwise we wouldn’t have known anything.”
Then on Tuesday, Aug. 4, just a day after the Sanders received the letter, an arborist who had been contracted for the removal of the trees came to the Sanders door to inform them that he would be marking the trees to come down, causing the Sanders to assume that the tree removal would be happening immediately.
Since then, the Sanders have been in contact with Alliant Energy regarding the project, as well as Williams, and contacted the city council to raise the issue as well.
“We just feel that things have been very vague and communication hasn’t been very clear concerning the project,” said Kendall. “I mean we know they can do whatever they want really, since it’s city property and Alliant’s poles, but it would be nice if the people it affects would be informed or asked their opinion. I know Darlington is always advocating to keep the city looking good and encouraging citizens to take care of their yards, but it just seems like taking down a bunch of trees isn’t the best way to do that.”
The Sanders noted during the meeting that they’ve tried to make sure the trees as well as the yard space surrounding them is kept up well, and have done some landscaping around the trees.
According to Kendall the letter they received from Williams noted that the trees would be replaced in time, but that no specific timeline or plan was given regarding that replacement or the project itself.
“I guess we’d like to know if there is a plan of replacement if the trees do come down and just what will happen,” said Kendall. “It would be easier to understand and deal with if we were given reasons and know there is a plan in place.”
The Sanders moved to Darlington about two and a half years ago, and have two daughters who are two years and five months old.
“We love Darlington and we’ve loved the house and Washington Street more every year, we decided to raise our kids here, so we just want to see how Darlington will handle this,” said Kendall.
The Sanders also noted that their house is located directly across from the backside of the Lafayette County Courthouse building, which houses the sheriff’s department and jail.
“Sometimes when we’ve been outside, and the windows are open, some of the inmates have yelled stuff down at us,” explained Kendall. “But the sheriff’s department has been really great about helping with that when we call and the trees really help to block some of that view. But if those trees were to come down, that would be gone and I’m uncomfortable with them having a direct, unblocked view of my house and my front yard all the time…our girls play out there.”
During the meeting, Darlington Police Chief Jason King noted that this may be a good opportunity to look at implementing a city wide policy regarding the replacement of trees that come down throughout the city, especially with the threat of the Emerald Ash Borer that will result in the removal of all of the Ash trees in the area in the near future.
Several city council members expressed concern with the issue, and sympathized with the Sanders situation.
“The council seems very compassionate and we know some were taking the time to come down to Washington Street to look at the area and one of them even came to our door and asked to look at where the lines are currently,” said Kendall. “So that’s good to know that they’re taking it seriously.”
According to Williams, a representative from Alliant Energy will be present at the next city council meeting to be on Tuesday, Aug. 18, although it is not known if they will be accepting questions from the public.