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Covington to get help with wood-chipping

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John Evans works to remove limbs from one of two downed pecan trees at the Covington Church of Christ Tuesday afternoon. Two storms early Monday evening were responsible for the loss of many more large trees in Tipton County. Photo by Echo Day

After a lunch break Tuesday afternoon, John Evans got back to work at Covington Church of Christ, removing limbs from a large pecan tree that fell Monday, and narrowly missed the building. 

"You know, I bought this chainsaw when I went down to Katrina," he said, smiling, "and I used it to help during the Dyersburg tornado,too." 

It seems fitting, then, that the same chainsaw would be used to help his own church during its time of need. Evans cut the limbs from the trunk of the tree, then into more manageable logs for his 10-year-old son, Andrew, to carry to a growing pile ready for pickup. 

"We're going to get done what we can, then get it out to the curb and I think the city will come by to pick it up," Evans said. 

It's a process that's become a habit as storms continue to drop large trees and limbs – nearly two dozen of them blocked roadways Monday night – leaving plenty to clean up in their wake.

The City of Covington is so overwhelmed by the cleanup of fallen trees and limbs after a devastating ice storm on March 3 and a storm that brought straight-line winds on June 5, in addition to its normal volume, that city leaders approved paying B&B Ranch an estimated $30,000 to assist with wood chipping.

"We have a large amount, due to the ice storm and the wind storm, that we've run out of space," mayor David Gordon said Tuesday. "They'll come and start chipping in August and our future plan will be to unload a truck right into the wood chipper."

Last month, the once-open storage area used to hold the woody waste held piles of trees and limbs 10-15 feet high as far as the eye could see. 

Public works director Robert Martin Simpson said the last month's load has increased four times the average. 

"From June 7 to July 3, we hauled 6,090 cubic yards, where last year's average month was 1,550 cubic yards, or 62 loads," he said.

If there is a silver lining to the problem, it is that the downed trees will save money as the chips will be processed at the city's biomass gasification plant and turned into energy to be used at the wastewater treatment facility. 

Simpson said even though a contractor has been hired, it will end up being more cost effective for B&B to do it than the public works crew. 

"When you get these guys in here with the bigger chippers, they can do more than we can do with ours. This is a good thing, if you ask me. We've already worked a lot of overtime." 

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