Despite complaints from a contingent of citizens about tree cutting done throughout the city on behalf of Central Maine Power Company, the Rockland City Council refused Feb. 11 to adopt a package of recommendations from a committee that has been working on the issue.

The council also refused to accept a donation of arborist services from a local gallery owner to help the city monitor the work of the tree cutters.

The council’s actions came at the end of a three-hour meeting that was highlighted by a public hearing dominated by critics of the tree-cutting efforts thus far in Rockland.

Councilor Elizabeth Dickerson sought to have the donation of aborist work from artist Jonathan Frost added to the Feb. 11 agenda. A city law, however, requires a unanimous vote to add an item to the agenda during a meeting. She also made the motion to add approval of the Energy Efficiency Committee’s recommendations to the agenda but that failed to get unanimous backing.

Mayor Deborah McNeil and Councilor Tom Molloy both voted against adding the items to the agenda.

McNeil and Molloy said they had problems with some parts of the committee’s recommendations. McNeil scheduled a meeting for Tuesday, Feb. 16 at 6:30 p.m. at city hall for the council to go over the recommendations.

“We need to backtrack and do the process right,” McNeil said Feb. 12. She said she appreciates the hard work of the committee and agrees with many of its recommendations, but the council should have time to review and discuss them before adopting proposals from any committee. The mayor said the council frequently holds work sessions on recommendations from committees such as one held recently on proposals concerning management of the fish pier.

The mayor said while she appreciates the donation offer from Frost, she believes the council should not dictate to the manager which firm should be selected to provide arborist services without first knowing if the firm is the right company to have working for the city. That decision should be left to the manager, she said.

Frost’s offer would have amounted to a donation of $1,600 in services. Frost was owed money by an arborist and he offered to have that service given to the city.

The energy committee has recommended acceptance of the gift.

The council did agree in a unanimous vote to add to the agenda a proposal, which it later approved, to spend up to $1,500 from the city land sales reserve account to hire an arborist to advise the city on tree-cutting plans by CMP.

The Energy Efficiency Committee’s recommendations included:

* Affirmation of the value of trees to the community.

“Trees contribute to how attractive the downtown area is both for shopping and to seasonal tourists,” the committee said. “Trees help define the character of many of the city’s historic neighborhoods. The presence of shade trees determines how attractive it is to walk downtown from one of Rockland’s historic inns on a hot summer day. Trees reduce residents’ cooling costs in the summer and can provide barriers from strong winter winds. The entire tree canopy over the city mitigates adverse impacts of storm water runoff. The trees also help filter air pollutants that can be a problem especially in the summer months.”

Committee Chairman Larry Pritchet told councilors that the issue does not need to be a case of sacrificing either the value of trees or the reliability of power supplies.

* The committee said it applauds CMP’s goal – mandated by the Public Utilities Committee – to have a plan to prune all trees around power lines every fives years. The committee, however, said that the utility should have a forester with experience on urban tree cutting on staff to oversee the work and to respond to requests from citizens.

* Pruning should be halted until Feb. 22 to give time to implement changes sought by the city.

* The city should seek to be designated a tree city. The program provides guidance to municipalities on the best options for maintaining city trees.

* Converting the Energy Efficiency Committee to the Municipal Energy & Conservation Commission.

* The city match the Frost donation to hire an arborist to provide consultations with the city.

* Review of work done thus far by city staff and arborist to see if any corrective pruning could be done to reduce risk of rot and disease in trees damaged by the cuttings.

* Have two members of the energy committee be designated to assist the city manager as the primary contacts with CMP.