Farmer: Overhanging branches pose danger to equipment and lives

BY JANE MEGGITT Correspondent

Nearly a year after he first appeared before the Millstone governing body to complain about the dangers of overhanging trees, farmer Jonathan Pinhas was back to report little progress has been made to resolve the issue.

At the April 6 Township Committee meeting, Pinhas said his farming equipment continues to hit branches hanging over the roadways. He and his mother, Shirley, first appeared before the committee on June 2, 2010, to ask for the township’s help in fixing low-hanging branches and wires.

Pinhas said he gave a list of problem trees and their locations to zoning officer Patrick Hynes and the township’s Shade Tree Commission. He said farmers driving equipment or anyone traveling behind them could get killed if the situation is not corrected.

“The season is coming again,” Pinhas said. “We’ll start moving equipment down the road.”

When Township Administrator Phil del Turco said the municipality is willing to partner with JCP&L to resolve the issue, Pinhas said that JCP&L keeps the trees around its wires trimmed back. He said the problem branches are usually located on the opposite side of the road from the electric utility’s wires.

Del Turco said the Department of Public Works (DPW) has discussed getting a bucket truck to work on the overhanging branches. Mayor Nancy Grbelja noted that the DPW is short on employees at the moment. During the meeting, the committee accepted the resignation of DPW employee Anthony Renner.

Committeeman Fiore Masci asked Pinhas if he could drive his equipment down the center of roads to avoid branches. Pinhas said he could do that on back roads but not on main roads. He said he moves his equipment across town from Route 526 to Route 33, and uses major roads such as Millstone Road, Sweetmans Lane, Stagecoach Road, Stillhouse Road, Baird Road and Route 571. He said there is a tree on Millstone Road near the New Jersey Equine Clinic that hangs 13 feet over the road. He also said there are trees hanging over Route 571 that prevent him from seeing over the hills along that roadway. Grbelja noted that Route 571 falls under county jurisdiction.

“The trees still need to get cut,” he said. “They are not where they are legally supposed to be.”