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Forestry plan could chip away at Norwich Hospital cleanup costs

By Claire Bessette

Publication: The Day

Published October 09. 2012 4:00AM

Preston - Bricks, scrap metal and slate roofing tiles salvaged from the former Norwich Hospital have helped defray some of the multimillion-dollar demolition and cleanup costs on the decaying campus and now trees on the property could add to the revenue stream.

The Preston Redevelopment Agency on Wednesday will consider a proposed new forestry management plan submitted recently by Hull Forest Products of Pomfret for three portions of the former hospital property. The PRA will meet Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Town Hall.

Forester Chris Casadei presented the plan to the agency two weeks ago. Last week the PRA's operations committee recommended that it be accepted and implemented.

Casadei said the wooded areas of the hospital property all are "even aged" woodlands, meaning the trees all grew at roughly the same time. The largest section, a 134-acre wooded area across Route 12 from the main campus has a variety of oaks, birch, hickory, beech and pine trees.

"It's a very productive, nice chunk of forest there for sure," Casadei told the agency.

Casadei estimated the total value of the timber in this stand at $97,590 if the entire area was clear-cut. But that is not the intention of the PRA or Hull's recommendation. He said about one-third of the trees would be cut, "concentrating on the poorly formed, suppressed and declining trees in an effort to shift the growth potential to the more desirable and valuable crop trees."

The small wooded section at the edge of this large area consists mainly of Norway spruce trees that were planted. Clear-cutting this area would yield $1,285, but Hull again recommended cutting one-third of the trees to allow young native trees the chance to grow.

There is a 28.8-acre wooded area dominated by white pine with various oaks and maples south of the Mohegan-Pequot Bridge on the east side of campus. The entire stand is worth $19,693, but the recommendation is to cut about a third of the trees.

The third stand is a smaller area also south of the bridge on the river side of Route 12 with the same mix of trees. This stand is valued at $6,263, with the recommendation to cut a third of the trees.

Frank Ennis, who oversees hospital campus operations for the PRA, said implementing the forestry management plan would give the agency a small amount of revenue. Hull's $1,000 management fee would come out of the lumber sold and would not have to be paid up front.

The forestry management plan does not cover the main hospital campus - a park setting, Casadei said - but the PRA might consult with Hull on individual trees. The PRA initially contacted Hull about a month ago to cut down trees on the main campus for security reasons, Ennis said. At that time, the agency asked for a proposed forestry management plan.

PRA officials also on Wednesday will discuss a schedule of public informational meetings for residents in advance of a planned referendum in late November for a proposed $4 million town matching share for a $4 million low-interest state loan and a $964,000 federal grant for hospital property cleanup.

The PRA plans to hold two public informational sessions on the matching share and two tours of the hospital campus to show progress of the cleanup and demolition to date. The Board of Selectmen on Thursday recommended that the Board of Finance put the issue to the voters at a town meeting and referendum.

The town must decide whether to accept the terms of the state loan no later than Dec. 1.

c.bessette@theday.com

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