The Alexandria Borough Council unanimously approved a motion to accept the applications of three borough residents to become members of Alexandria Borough Council last night.

Mary Jane Walker, Tori Wilt and Jane Pilch will be joining the council, following a motion to accept the resignation of council member Adrian Lane.

The three new council members will be sworn in at the Magisterial District Justice office in the near future, bringing the council to its full capacity of seven council members.

Regarding the proposed tree removals in the borough pertaining to the shade tree ordinance, Mr. James Savage, a professor of horticulture at Penn State University and a certified arborist of over 25 years of experience, at the invitation of council member Judy Scott, spoke before the council.

“I’ve been on international committees dealing with trees in urban areas all of my life, so I have a pretty good background. As far as the 12 trees I was shown in the borough, one tree had some issues that are correctable. None of the trees I was shown were removable. You have several on the street here that are hazardous and should be dealt with. How I think you need to deal with this is to have an inventory done,” he said.

Council President Mike Smith noted that this was what he had suggested to Mark Troutman, an arborist hired by the council to inspect the trees.

However, Troutman, present at the meeting, had just previously resigned his services to the council as he said the whole issue was “a hornet’s nest,” and did not wish to be involved.

“Penn State (Cooperative) Extension can help you with this. We have programs that help you with this and can teach your people how to correct this. I have the contacts and we can do this,” said Savage.

Savage provided his information to borough secretary John Casas.

Council vice resident Rebecca Smith said she wanted to “wait and investigate this” to make sure that there were no conflicts of interest and to get a formal proposal from Savage before moving forward with bringing Savage on board. M. Smith concurred, wanting to examine Savage’s credentials before hiring him.

Council member Scott Glass asked the cost of this service from Savage through Penn State Cooperative Extension, to which he said it was free, although he could only work with public land.

M. Smith noted that as one of the potentially hazardous trees in question is on private land, he would not be able to deal with it.

Rebecca Smith put forward a motion to get three offers of arborists and proceed from there, as Savage would not be able to work with any trees on private land, which the Shade Tree Ordinance states the council is responsible for, as well.

The motion passed, with council member Judy Scott voting against it.

Glass addressed the council and a sizable public audience regarding the origins of the ongoing tree issues.

“We were approached by three different members of the borough with concerns about the trees on their property being hazardous. So we went through our existing tree ordinance, went out and took a look at them and said, ‘OK, we’ll have the trees removed’. This is part of a process that has been ongoing before anyone was on council. We’ve been trying to find a way to get back into the city tree program so we can actually afford to pay to have safe trees, better trees, and trees that don’t destroy property,” he said.

Crist Fellman, chief deputy of the Huntingdon County Emergency Management Agency, addressed the council regarding the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers upcoming study of the flow of the river and storm related issues within the borough to see what’s causing flood-related issues.

“This is the engineering study, and it’s being done for everyone in the municipality. They may come around and knock on your door and ask about past flooding situations. If you have information, you can divulge to them about historical information about the causes of the flooding they would appreciate hearing that.”

He said the study could remove some residents from the flood plain established by Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“This is all just getting started,” said Crist.

He also addressed the council’s recent decision to remove Alexandria borough from the National Flood Insurance Program.

“I’m to give you folks one last opportunity to rethink what you’re doing. Because being able to buy private flood insurance has always been an option,” he said

Glass disagreed.

“I think this crosses the line between EMA and FEMA,” said Vice President Rebecca Smith.

The council approved a motion to make a payment of $5,110.90 to auditor Arthur Moretti on behalf of the Alexandria Volunteer Fire Co. for its audit.

Nathan can be reached at nwoods@huntingdondailynews.com.

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