Town operations manager Dan Lemieux keeps a close eye on the residents and the trees in Port Royal.
So when a rotten or damaged tree becomes a safety hazard, he also knows which residents can't afford to pay to remove it.
Instead of fining the resident, he turns to a list of tree-care companies that have agreed to cut down two trees in the town for free every year. Three companies -- Preservation Tree Care, Southern Tree Service and Action Tree -- are on that list, and town officials are negotiating to add a fourth.
A hazardous tree could be sick or dying, have heavy branches in danger of snapping, or have other defects that could make it fall.
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"I've been here my whole life, and the community provides me with a living, and if I can give back to some people who can't afford it, that's what we should do," Southern Tree Services owner Ronnie Reiselt said.
The cost of labor and fuel, and a portion of his insurance costs are tax-deductible, Reiselt said. However, he said he cannot deduct the entire cost of the complimentary removals because they help private residents, not nonprofit organizations.
Reiselt's company does not always fell trees -- recently, he pruned dangerous branches so that a Port Royal man could keep a large oak that would have been removed.
Lemieux said the idea of donating services came about last year when he worked with Mike Murphy, owner of Preservation Tree Care. A resident couldn't afford to have a tree cut down and Murphy donated his services.
"It costs a lot to money to remove a tree," Lemieux said. "I'm just glad there are people gracious enough to do this."
Beaufort residents also have benefited from free services, city landscape architect Liza Hill said. Preservation Tree removed 26 trees in the city during one week in December 2010 -- work that would have cost more than $50,000, she said.