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Watertown’s streets soon to be ice storm debris-free

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WATERTOWN — With almost all the mounds of snow gone, city crews soon will start concentrating on removing the tree limbs, branches and other debris left from the Dec. 21 ice storm.

Eugene P. Hayes, superintendent of public works, said Monday that residents can expect to see crews getting rid of storm remnants within the next seven to 10 days. Tons of debris were hidden beneath this winter’s snow, making it too dangerous to remove.

To help with the massive job, the city intends to hire a pair of logging companies to pick up the larger tree branches and limbs, Mr. Hayes said. City DPW crews will be assisting on the job, which probably will take until early June to complete.

Mr. Hayes expects crews to make three different passes throughout the city to get the work done. Not counting city labor, it will end up costing the city $150,000 for the storm cleanup, he said.

“I think we’ve done a good job this year,” he said.

He also suggests that property owners use caution. If snow remains in the margins of your yard, leave everything where it is, Mr. Hayes said. Otherwise, he said it would be OK for property owners to bring debris to the area between the sidewalk and the street if all the snow has melted.

“We don’t want anyone to get hurt,” Mr. Hayes said, adding that he wants to make sure his employees also are safe.

The remaining debris will be carted away in dump trucks and hauled off to a city-owned quarry on Route 11, just north of the city, Senior Planner Michael A. Lumbis said.

Mr. Lumbis also is working on a contract with Fort Drum-based ReEnergy Holdings LLC’s Black River biomass company to take the debris off the city’s hands — it will eventually be converted to renewable energy.

The Fort Drum plant, which opened last June after a $34 million renovation that converted the site from burning coal, currently provides power to the area around the post and sells renewable energy credits to the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.

Besides the cleanup, the city will focus on repairing the city’s damaged tree population.

After conducting an inventory of the tree damage in January, Mr. Lumbis determined that about 500 trees were damaged. About 30 must be removed and some 300 will require a DPW crew using a bucket truck to prune or repair.

Some of the bigger, older trees were on Thompson Boulevard; South Indiana, Ward and Gill streets; Madison Avenue; and Park Drive West.

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