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City still faces a ‘tree-mendous’ job cleaning up from ice storm


WATERTOWN — For more than a month, Timothy J. Monica and his crew have been going up and down streets picking up logs, limbs and other debris nearly six months after the Dec. 21 ice storm hit the area.

“We’re gaining on it,” he said while working in the Bugbee Drive and Harris Drive neighborhood Tuesday morning. “We’ve moved a lot.”

Another crew is working on the north side. The mission won’t be accomplished until the end of June, Public Works Superintendent Eugene P. Hayes said.

When all is said and done, the crews will complete three passes around the city and take between 1,000 and 1,200 dump truck loads of limbs to the city-owned quarry off Route 11, just north of the city, Mr. Hayes said.

So far, a pile of debris about 200 yards long and 40 feet tall has been taken to the quarry.

As they have done for weeks, Mr. Monica, crew mates Christopher Turner and Dale Woolston, logger J.R. Hackbarth and three dump truck operators from T.J. Clement Construction were working hard at it on Tuesday. In all, about nine DPW workers are involved in the project.

The job was so mammoth the city hired T.J. Clement Construction for $85 an hour and Dan Robbins Logging Co., Lacona, for $125 an hour. Trying to keep overtime for DPW workers to a minimum, Mr. Hayes said he expects the tree cleanup will end up costing between $150,000 and $200,000. On average, about 25 truckloads are going to the quarry a day, he said.

It’s not quite as big as the 1991 and 1998 ice storm and 1995 microburst cleanups, but the work began much later than those because of the stubborn snow that just would not melt until April, Mr. Hayes said.

Similar work is being done in the town of Watertown and village of Sackets Harbor. Those municipalities will finish their cleanups by June 1.

While all of this is going on, DPW crews also are doing the spring season jobs of fixing potholes, milling roads and making sewer repairs.

“We’ve been doing a juggling act,” Mr. Hayes said, adding that his department has received just a few resident complaints.

On Tuesday, Mr. Hackbarth operated a loader to carefully pick up limbs and tree debris left on the side of the road, while Mr. Turner and Mr. Woolston worked on the ground. They used a rake and their feet to push into a pile the smaller sticks that the logging machine could not pick up the first time. Eventually, the piles were put into a waiting dump truck.

It took about 20 minutes just to get about 40 feet of debris that sat at the curb at a Bugbee Drive home.

“It takes time,” Mr. Monica said.

On Monday night, the Watertown City Council will consider hiring ReEnergy Holdings LLC to use all of the fallen tree limbs and other debris as fuel for its Black River biomass facility on Fort Drum.

The council may approve a contract with the Black River company that night.

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