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Google, Leave Them Trees Alone!

Friday, 18 December 2015 19:59

You may recently have heard that Google has begun laying fiber-optic cable throughout Metro Atlanta, beginning with the Midtown area first. These new fiber optic lines promise speeds up to 1,000 megabits per second, which is 100 times faster than basic broadband, but installing these new lines requires trees to be trimmed and new poles to be erected to carry the lines.

As local residents began to observe the new pole installation, presumably by Google contractors, they quickly became concerned that tree roots were being compromised by the digging. Section 158-34 of the Atlanta Tree Protection Ordinance states that 'fences surrounding root save area must be erected before the commencement of any land disturbance.'"

Atlanta is not the first city to voice concern over Google damaging street trees when stringing fiber optic lines. Two years ago, residents and business owners in Kansas City's historic Volker neighborhood were outraged when Google Fiber severely cut back some trees on 39th Street, some to the point of total destruction.

Volker Neighbors Angry About Google Fiber Tree Cutting

This past Wednesday morning, Virginia-Highland resident Stephanie Coffin sent an email to Google representative Fabiola Charles Stokes, complaining about a red maple on Ponce de Leon Avenue that was heavily damaged by post digging.

“The pole hole was dug right next to a large red maple planted in the ROW,” Coffin wrote. “What is left is roots from the maple sticking up all over the area, the soil is disturbed and the ground has changed its elevation.  All these conditions have damaged this public tree. I have seen other pole erections in the neighborhood and the areas around public trees have been left in similar conditions.”

Stokes’ responded by saying that the digging “was not done by our crews or on our behalf.”  However, Coffin noted that there may be some confusion as to which company is trimming trees or digging post holes given that Georgia Power, AT&T -- and now Google -- are all running lines and doing tree pruning for their individual lines.  “The Department of Parks has no pruning cycles established giving the impression to all that our trees are fair game to whoever wants to whack them,” Coffin replied. Furthermore, she continued, “Contractors and subcontractors are being used with different truck logos and crews, [so] it is very difficult for the public to find out who is digging and pruning public trees.”

After more complaints by other residents, Google is starting to listen. NPU-F (which covers Midtown and Virginia-Highland) Chair This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it received the following email Wednesday afternoon from This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , a former Georgia Power employee who is now working as a contract arborist with Georgia Power:

Greetings Debbi Skopczynski,

As you are aware, the Google Fiber installation project has begun in Atlanta. The in town communities appear to have a lot of excitement about this and welcome the project.

One aspect of the project that residents in NPU F will discover is the need for tree trimming where equipment will be added to poles and where fiber installation is required. My reason for contacting you is to introduce myself and let you know how I am involved with this project. I am a retired Georgia Power Utility Forestry Specialist who has worked closely with the in town communities in the past on tree trimming issues. I have been brought on board as a Contract Arborist to help coordinate the pruning efforts for this Google project. Google makes every effort to minimize customer dissatisfaction on projects such as this. I believe that our team of 3 Utility Arborists, Justin Johnson, Clay Szoke and myself, can address tree concerns and questions promptly and professionally before any issue arises.

Only residents who have trees in the public right-of-way at the installation sites will be notified. These residents will be contacted prior to any tree work which gives them an opportunity to reach out to our team with any questions. Tree work inside NPU F has begun and it will continue in 2 parts. The first part is work at select poles along the street to prepare them for additional equipment and the second part will be the actual fiber installation. There could be some time delay between these 2 events. I say this to let you know that the residents may see tree work at the same location on 2 separate occasions. This can present some confusion and questions.

The City of Atlanta Public Right-of-Way Arborists are aware of the work locations and are updated each week. They have been informed of the type of tree trimming work that is necessary which in most cases is minimal. With this knowledge they will be able to stay informed when they receive calls from concerned citizens. They have seen some of the tree work in NPU F and have given their approval.

Please let me know if you have any questions about the Google project. If the questions are tree related, our team can address them; if they are engineering/scheduling questions, they will be directed to Google. I hope that this information is helpful.

Please do not hesitate to contact us.

Trudy Brandau
404-285-2370
This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Justin Johnson
706-424-8898
This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Clay Szoke
404-290-2473
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Google plans to install fiber throughout metro Atlanta which means thousands of our street trees may be affected. If you have any questions about the tree work that is being conducted in your neighborhood related to the installation of Google fiber, please contact one of the three contacts listed above. It is important that Atlanta residents remain vigilant and watch out for the trees in their neighborhood so that they are protected during this Google fiber installation.

 

 
   
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