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Town halts plans to remove towering trees - for now

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By Johnathan Ryan

KERSHAW - The town of Kershaw will look more carefully at a proposal to cut down 17 trees on Matson Street to repair sidewalks in what some consider the most beautiful area of town.

Town Council voted unanimously Monday to table a resolution to remove the towering trees and their roots, which are causing the sidewalks along the street to crack.

The estimated cost to remove the trees, rebuild the sidewalks and plant new trees is $75,000.

Town Administrator Tony Starnes said the sidewalks are dangerous, as some are raised six to eight inches.

"It is terribly bad in some places," he said.

Three residents urged caution in proceeding with the removal of what they called impressive, aesthetically pleasing trees along the historic street. They asked for council to look at alternatives.

"Once they're gone, they're gone," said resident Denise Hegler.

Her husband, the Rev. Jesse Hegler, followed by saying the trees are a part of the town's history and said other towns have both beautiful old trees and sidewalks.

"I don't know if it's a win-win either way," said Mayor Tommy Baker. "We can explore what other historic areas have done and maybe contact the Clemson Extension office."

Councilman Wade Hunter said no council member wants to destroy a part of town history but said it's council's responsibility to ensure the safety of its residents.

Since the sidewalks are just outside the S.C. Department of Transportation's right-of-way, they are the town's responsibility to maintain, Starnes said. The town could be held liable for any injuries that occur on the sidewalks, Starnes said.

The trees are within SCDOT's right-of-way, but Starnes said the state won't touch them if they have any "green" on them.

A SCDOT official, however, did recently survey the situation and informed town officials that 17 trees were in need of removal along the street to prevent further sidewalk problems.

Councilman Jabo Sims asked if the trees needed immediate attention.

Starnes wasn't in a position to answer that question, so council asked to have the SCDOT official return and rank the trees in terms of most- to least-threatening.

But Starnes said Tuesday that he doesn't know if having such an assessment would be worth it since the trees all need removal.

The town hopes a state Budget and Control Board grant will finance the project, but the deadline to apply for the grant is nearing, Starnes said.

Cracked sidewalks are not the only safety risk, Starnes said.

Some of the 17 trees slated for removal are practically dead, posing the danger of falling limbs over sidewalks and onto Matson Street, and some are also hollow, Starnes said.

A large, hollow tree fell along Richland Street a few months ago and caused damage to a nearby house, Starnes said.

Contact Johnathan Ryan at 416-8416 or jryan@thelancasternews.com