Feds say decades-old tree cut down because it was dying - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina |

Feds say decades-old tree cut down because it was dying

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A century-old tree on the grounds of the federal courthouse in Columbia is being cut down because it was dying, said a spokesperson for the federal government.

A tipster called the WIS newsroom Monday morning to inform us of federal officials having a tree cut down outside the Matthew J. Perry Federal Courthouse. The tree, according to the caller, was at least 100 years old.

The caller also said the tree was being cut down to make a gate for lawn mowers to get inside the secured lawn on the Park Street side of the building. The caller did not want to be identified.

WIS went to the scene and found a tree removal crew cutting the tree's trunk into pieces and rolling the pieces out of the fenced area and onto the sidewalk. The crew also had an industrial chipping machine and boxed utility truck full of mulch. The mulch was the limbs and pieces of branches the crews had already removed and ground up before the WIS camera arrived.

While on scene, we spoke with David Graves, a private contractor working with the General Services Administration. Graves told WIS he was the contractor over the Perry courthouse tree removal project.

"The tree's being removed to make way for equipment," Graves told WIS, "They picked this spot" for the gate, according to Graves. The spot was a break in the brick and wrought iron fence line along Park Street. The fence was built up to and stopped at either side of the tree when the fence originally went up.  

Graves referred further questions about the project to GSA officials inside the Matthew J. Perry Court House.

WIS called and left a message with Lori Maguire, a federal employee inside GSA. We were referred to McGuire from the operator at the phone number listed for Columbia's GSA office. We wanted to know the amount of tax dollars spent on the project and the specified reason for it.

A message left on Maguire's office number was not immediately returned.

On Nov. 27, Stephanie Kenitzer, the Regional Public Affairs Officer with GSA, emailed WIS to explain why GSA decided to remove the tree. "A tree near the southeast side of the Matthew J. Perry courthouse perimeter was removed this week because it was diseased and dying," Kenitzer wrote.

"An inspection in April revealed the tree's deteriorating condition. The tree showed multiple signs of disease, including widespread spotting. Branches and limbs regularly fell, presenting a safety hazard for pedestrians using the sidewalk below," Kenitzer continued.

Kenitzer further explained there was a financial reason to remove the tree. The courthouse is surrounded by a brick and wrought iron fence, which provides security to the building. There were no gates installed to allow "access to the grounds for future inspections and repair projects." Before the gate, GSA said crews had to use cranes to get equipment inside the secured perimeter.

The cost of the tree removal and gate installation is $16,749, according to Kenitzer. The GSA said the work should be finished by Dec. 24, 2013.

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