Six century-old oak trees on the lawn of the Union County Courthouse will be cut down during coming weeks.
The trees are believed to have been planted shortly after construction of the courthouse was finished in June 22, 1909, and now tower nearly as high as the two-story courthouse, its copper dome and the eagle on top of the dome.
The decision was reached after the Union County Board of Supervisors consulted with a forestry professor from Mississippi State University,
A wind storm the evening of Tuesday, April 3rd, set in motion the discussions that led to the decision to cut the trees down. About 8:30 that evening. an oak tree, about four feet in diameter and standing at the northern edge of the courthouse lawn, was uprooted and blown down, completely blocking Bankhead Street. Two other oak trees at the courthouse were severely damaged and one of those was taken down a few days later.
Steve Watson, president of the Union County Board of Supervisors, said the board asked for help from the Forestry Department of Mississippi State University in deciding what to do about the old trees.
Dr. John D. Kushla, a research professor on Mississippi State’s forestry faculty, came to New Albany and examined the six large oak trees that remain standing at the courthouse. Dr. Kushla told county board members that four of the six trees were hollow and dangerous. According to Watson, Kushla said the other two remaining trees were “near the end of their expected life” but might last “another year or so.”
Based on Kushla’s advice, the county supervisors decided to remove all six trees and replace them with younger trees. Because of the historic significance of the 2009 courthouse building, the Mississippi Department of Archives and History (A&H), has extensive authority over any changes to the courthouse or its grounds. Watson said the matter was submitted to A&H, which agreed with Professor Kushla’s recommendations.
At its Monday, June 4, meeting, the county board voted unanimously to award a contract to take down the six trees to Zinzer Tree Service of New Albany. Zinzer’s bid to cut the trees down and grind up the stumps came to $4,927.50. Competing bids ranged from $7,000 to $10,000.
Discussions during the Monday morning meeting indicated the board’s intention to plant new trees of substantial size when cooler weather in the fall will allow them to survive.
In other business Monday morning, the supervisors announced the purchase of ten new “automated external defibrillators” (AEDs). They are being provided to the county’s volunteer fire departments and used on emergency cardiac patients by trained emergency responders. AEDs automatically diagnose life-threatening cardiac arrhythmias and administer electric shocks that often can reestablish life-sustaining cardiac rhythms. Wade Chism accepted the AEDs on behalf of the county’s volunteer fire departments.
In other business the supervisors voted to approve change orders extending the time to complete bridges being built on County Roads 128 and 188 by 20 days. County Administrator Terry Johnson said the change orders would correct errors in the original contracts.
The board also authorized the county engineer to advertise for bids for construction of bridge #88 on County Road 128.
County Collector Tameri Dunnam told the board her office was mailing out 1,811 delinquent tax notices.
The Union County Board of Supervisors will meet again at 10 a.m. on Monday, June 18.