Help for Homeowners Facing Costly Tree Removal

Chris Bateman
By Chris Bateman September 15, 2016 21:13

With the addition of a permanent administrator, the Tree Mortality Aid Program (TMAP) is now accepting homeowner applications and could remove its first dead trees in the Mi-Wuk Village and Leisure Pines areas by year’s end.

Launched by the Sonora Lions Club this summer, TMAP will remove drought-stricken pines and cedars that could fall on or bring fire to the doorsteps of Tuolumne County homes. Eligible are older or disabled homeowners whose trees won’t be removed by county or PG&E programs and who can’t afford to pay for the work.

“September 15 is our kickoff,” says TMAP administrator Gregory Oliver, who for 13 years was Tuolumne County counsel and for the last four has run Catholic Charities’ Sonora Legal Aid Program. “That’s when you can call the Area 12 Agency on Aging (209-532-6272) and get an application.”

Area 12 Administrator Kristin Millhoff says more than 40 potential TMAP clients have already contacted the agency and should receive applications soon.

“I live in Mi-Wuk Village, and I know all about the tree problem,” says Oliver, who began his TMAP duties in early August. “I see it every day. I was happy to volunteer.”

TMAP aims to help fixed-income retirees 60 and over or qualified disabled homeowners. Eligible, Oliver says, are those who earn less than $29,000 yearly (for couples, less than $40,000). Homeowners with more than $20,000 in liquid assets are ineligible.

Other program leaders are Lions Club member Tom Penhallegon, a retired businessman who heads up fund raising, and Glenn Gottschall, a retired deputy Stanislaus National Forest supervisor who is handling the scientific and technical sides of the effort.

The Lions, together with the Kiwanis and Rotary clubs, have raised more than $10,000, and numerous grant and aid applications are pending. About $2 million is needed to remove an estimated 2,000 trees, Oliver says. Once more money is received and applications are processed, he adds, work can begin.

A separate hazard-tree removal effort headed up by the Tuolumne County Office of Emergency Services (OES) is already underway, targeting dead pines and cedars that endanger county roads or buildings.

OES Coordinator Tracie Riggs says some 60 trees have been cut in the Leisure Pines subdivision and that the hard-hit Mi-Wuk Village area (208 trees) is next in line.

Dead hazard trees have also been identified in the Old Highway 120, Tuolumne Road North, Merrell Road and Confidence Road areas. Homeowners have been sent right-to-enter forms, and Riggs urges them to respond quickly. “Without those forms,” she says, “we can’t do the work.”

PG&E, which has its own tree-removal program, is cutting in the same areas as the county-contracted crews. “TMAP will follow in those areas,” says Oliver, adding that Leisure Pines and Mi-Wuk will likely be first, perhaps in October.

Want to help? Mail tax-deductible donations to Sonora Area Foundation (362 South Stewart St., Sonora, CA 95370, write TMAP on memo line) or give online at Sonora-area.org.

Copyright © 2016 Friends and Neighbors Magazine

Chris Bateman
By Chris Bateman September 15, 2016 21:13
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