LEWISTON — Fed up with damage from above and below, Postal Service officials cut down four downtown elm trees Thursday.
Leaves falling from the four trees clogged the Lewiston Post Office's gutters each year, flooding and damaging offices in the building's second floor. Meanwhile, roots from the trees had damaged floor in the building's basement and clay sewer lines outside.
"It's been a tough year for the Postal Service, and we need to be very careful how we spend every dollar," said Tom Rizzo, spokesman for the Northern New England District of the U.S. Postal Service. "We just cannot afford to have to repair that kind of damage to that building year after year."
Two of the trees were along Park Street, one near the building's parking lot and a second near the Ash Street intersection. Two more were located on Ash Street, on either side of the building's entrance.
Rizzo said flooding from clogged roof drains was a regular occurrence at the Post Office building. It culminated in serious water damage to two offices on the second floor.
"It required the total gutting and reconstruction," Rizzo said. "This has happened again and again throughout the years."
Tree roots had begun to buckle the basement floor. Rizzo said damage to the clay sewer drains hasn't been repaired yet.
"There's no budget for it, but we think that seriously within the next 18 months we're going to have to do something," he said.
Removing the trees was the only option.
"We made a decision that we hoped wouldn't be necessary but turned out to be the only practical solution," Rizzo said. "It should solve a significant and persistent problem. We certainly can't afford to keep making these repairs, and throwing good money after bad."