Lawmaker ‘didn’t know’ $300K budgeted to move trees

Construction project involving tree removal approved during last legislative session

The State of Oregon is paying $300,000 to remove and re-plant trees during a construction project at the capitol, April 27, 2017. (KOIN)

SALEM, Ore. (KOIN) — In a time of tight budgets, a group of Oregon lawmakers is crying foul over efforts to remove and replant 4 trees at the state capitol.

The state is paying a California company $300,000 to uproot the trees and move them to another location as part of a construction project. But some lawmakers disagree with the decision to use taxpayer funds to cover the cost.

“I think the trees are a symptom of really what’s going on in state government,” Rep. Julie Parrish said. “We don’t make the most rational spending decisions.”

Rep. Julie Parrish (R-Tualatin/West Linn) criticized the state’s decision to spend $300,000 to remove and replant trees at the capitol, April 27, 2017. (KOIN)

The construction project was approved in the last legislative session, but Parrish told KOIN 6 News she was surprised to learn it involved hundreds of thousands of dollars to remove 4 trees.

“I don’t think anyone knew or understood there was going to be this tree removal,” Parrish said.

She said it will cost $75,000 to remove each tree during construction and facility maintenance on underground utility structures. While she appreciates their age and history, she said it would have been more cost effective to cut them down.

Parrish also disagreed with the decision to hire an out-of-state company for the job.

“There are firms in Portland and Beaverton that can remove trees as well,” she said.

Governor Kate Brown discussed her plans to tackle budget challenges on Thursday. She responded to criticism on the tree removal project by saying the state is doing its best to preserve key artifacts and living things, all while trimming fat off the budget.

“That’s always a needle that we need to thread,” Brown said.