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Correspondent

HARVARD — Hanging tree limbs from December’s devastating ice storm are accidents waiting to happen, with scores of broken branches still poised above town roadways like the Sword of Damocles.

For public safety, those limbs have got to be removed, said Selectmen Chairman Leo Blair.

Previously, the selectmen had discussed a townwide, post-ice-storm brush cleanup that FEMA funds may help pay for. They instructed DPW Director Rich Nota to come back with quotes from firms that can do the work.

But while that process works through the system, the ground is thawing and the sap is running, and it’s likely that leaves will be out on the trees before the matter is settled.

And that is too late, Blair said.

It may be acceptable to wait awhile on roadside brush, he said, but limbs that threaten to fall onto town roads have to be taken down before being obscured by new leaves. Or worse, before they fall and cause personal injury, property damage or both.

That makes the brush-clearing plan a double-sided issue, and one side must be dealt with now, the board agreed.

FEMA, which recently toured the town with the Army Corps of Engineers, has estimated that cleanup will cost $210,000 based on 2,000 cubic yards of fallen trees and broken brush observed around town, with the federal agency picking up 75 percent of the cost.

But town administrator Timothy Bragan figures the tally will be higher once residents lug brush that’s now spread over their properties to the roadside. He said there’s another formula that would work out better in terms of the FEMA grant. It’s been used in at least one other community, he said, and suggested pursuing that option.

But Blair said he’s more concerned, for now, about the limbs, which he called the “final wild card” in the ice storm cleanup.

Nota estimates it will take two crews as many weeks to do that job, he said, for $40,000.

Blair recommended fast action. “If we wait for FEMA, the leaves will be out,” he said.

The board voted to move on the plan and to ask the Finance Committee for a Reserve Fund transfer to pay for it.

But with 66 miles of roads and only a “guesstimate” to go on, members speculated that the final figure may be higher when bids for the work come in.