SHIRLEY -- A towering pine tree that has wreaked havoc with historic gravestones in the Center Cemetery for years still stands, despite the selectmen's decision to remove it.
At a public hearing earlier this summer, the selectmen heard differing views on the subject, but most people who spoke favored felling the giant tree, which is about 100 feet high and perhaps a century old.
Cemetery Committee members present said the tree was a problem that should have been dealt with long ago and that the committee had funds available to take it down.
Only one person, Paul Przybyla, spoke for saving the tree.
Having heard evidence that the tree is dangerous and of no historic value, the selectmen were all set to have it cut down, backing the recommendation of DPW Director Paul Farrar, who said the tree may look healthy but is rotten inside, citing as proof that a stick he'd poked into its fork disappeared into the cavity.
Przybyla suggested getting a "second opinion," from a professional arborist and offered to pay for the service.
But the selectmen voted to remove it.
Monday night, Chief Administrative Officer David Berry brought the issue up again. The wheels were in motion to remove the tree and a firm had been hired to do the work, but people in the area have since said they, too, want a second opinion, and as a result, Farrar held off, Berry said.
It would cost about $250 to have an arborist visually assess the tree, more if equipment is used, Berry said, and Przybyla has confirmed his earlier offer to pay the bill.
"I understand" people's concerns, Selectman Andy Deveau said. And their letter-writing campaign "intensified" as the tree's takedown date approached.
He hasn't changed his mind, but he's willing to listen to the folks who still want to save the tree, he said. However, there's more bad than good to be said about it and more reasons to cut than save it, in his view.
Other selectmen were in agreement, as they were after the hearing, when they voted to cut down the tree. They, too, said they'll listen to arguments against the move, but the case would have to be pretty convincing.
Deveau reiterated that the tree has done irreparable damage in the cemetery and will likely do more if it stays. Besides, the tree has no historic value. It's just old and dangerous. It's not a question of whether the tree is healthy or not at this point, he said.
Still, he didn't object to having an arborist take a look and offer an opinion. In the meantime, "we'll wait," he said.