NEWPORT BEACH : City Hires Private Tree-Trimming Firm

As expected, the Newport Beach City Council voted Monday to hire a private contractor to prune the city's 20,000 trees.

The five-year contract went to West Coast Arborists, which also prunes trees in 16 other cities in Orange County including Costa Mesa, Tustin and Orange. City officials hope the privatization move will save between $100,000 and $135,000 annually, according to a report written by the director of general services.

Monday's vote was 6-0; Councilman John W. Hedges was absent.

None of the city workers employed as tree trimmers attended the Monday meeting. But two weeks ago when the council gave preliminary approval to the proposal, some of the tree trimmers argued that the city should retain their services because they have good rapport with residents and pay special attention to people's trees.

The 11-person crew who made up the municipal Street Tree Maintenance Division will be absorbed at their current salary level into other city jobs, including the refuse and parks maintenance areas. Three of the 11 will remain as tree trimmers doing spot work in emergencies and on weekends, according to David Niederhaus, general services director.

West Coast Arborists begins on Feb. 1. Its contract with the city is a series of one-year deals in which the city can terminate with 30 days' notice.

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