Frustrated in Middleton- Minot Street tree issue 6-5-12
I got a call a couple of days ago by a few angry citizens of Middleton about some trees on Minot street, one of the most heavily and most beautiful treed streets in the town that have allegedly been there for 50-100 years, some trees with diameters of three feet will now be removed.
Evidently the city council in a recent meeting called for them to be cut down due to safety concerns and to prevent any liability being incurred upon the city should someone become injured or lose their life if one should fall, a reasonable and logical concern but was that all there was, some people aren't so sure so they asked me to look into it.
From the research I have found, this is what I know:
1. The reason for this action was due to an April windstorm that blew over one of these trees creating concern for the city.
2. After the tree had blown over there was some conversation between Mr. Anawalt and the city about who would pay for the removal each citing that it was the responsibility of the other.
3. There was no written documentation on the meeting agenda regarding the trees for the council meeting of May 2nd, but was discussed, for the first time, briefly in the Public Works section of the meeting where Superintendent Gibbons stated trees located on the city right of way were damaged due to the windstorm and have already been evaluated and noted as ALL ten trees required removal due to poor health and no root base to eliminate the safety hazard but will return with bids for removal.
4. There was no written documentation on the meeting agenda regarding the trees for the council meeting of May 16th, but was a second, brief discussion in the Public works comments in the meeting that stated there were three proposals. It was stated that tree removal was not a budgeted item but since the fund was under budget the work could be done?
5. It was also noted that the property pins that were” found” to show that the trees were entirely on city property.
6. The report continues to state that the evaluator stated some trees on Boise and Murphy were old but healthier and could be budgeted for a later date.
7. The city attorney Yorgason did state that since the bid was under 25k, the city could hire who they wished for the job and due to the “time sensitive” nature the payment would be brought back and authorized with accounts payable on the consent agenda.
8. There was no mention of the Minot Street tree issue in the meeting of June 6th, no vote, no public hearing as it appears to have been decided at the meeting dated May 16th.
9. The authority derived for the removal of the trees was:
Safety concern and urgency
Idaho code Title 40-1310 (Pertaining to Highway district right of way maintenance) No other references were given.
When calling upon other statewide arborists to perform an evaluation, they stated it was a conflict of interest and if they got involved could jeopardize their employment with other cities and school districts.
If the trees created such an urgent safety hazard, from the storm in April, why wasn’t the street closed or modified before June? Why weren’t residents on that street given the urgent notification of such an eminent safety concern?
Why in Mr. Gibbon’s communication with the board, did he say ALL the trees were damaged?
How can tree removal not be a budgeted item but since the fund is under budget the work could be done?
How did he know that the trees were already in the cities right of way and not private property and why were Councilman Parry’s questions and dissent not addressed?
Were the locations of the trees surveyed or previously determined to be in the right of way? Why was a survey not done with the assumption that the survey pins could have been moved but accepted at their existence as “found?”
How is it that Mr. Gibbons authorized to spend tax dollars on an evaluation prior to the discussion of this event in council meeting, was this part of a job that was to be done prior to any discussion regarding these trees?
How is it that there were three bids for the tree removal but yet only one opinion on the condition of the trees and that the same person evaluated the trees was the same one that cut them down is that not a conflict of interest? When calling multiple arborists, they stated it clearly was.
Why was not the topic of salvage come up? If the trees belonged to the tax payer and were cut down by the tax payer, why didn’t the possibility come up of offering the tax payer the wood salvage from the trees?
Why was there no discussion on having trees planted to replace the ones that were being removed?
If these trees were removed to prevent safety concerns, who determines what is safe and where specifically is this authorized, state statutes, city ordinances, federal laws, state laws, one or all of the above?
Why in the meeting after to the tree removal was only evidence of the rotten tree brought before the public but not sections from the trees that were unaffected?
Why was evidence of the live owl nest removed shortly after it was found as if to hide something?
Why was there a vote on the work to be done if it was not necessary to have a public hearing and if it was a public hearing why was there not three readings and public comment, then on the agenda as an action item?
If there was dissent among one of the councilmembers, why weren’t his concerns taken under consideration and explained with regards to local ordinances or state statute’s
With the expert testimony of the tree evaluator how does he define “ old trees” and the severity of “internal integrity?”
Was the tree removal pre-emptively expedited by the city attorney because it was 1, under 25k and 2, the safety concern for the city and did these decisions bypass laws that protect the people from governments desire to get something accomplished at their expense “In the name of safety?”
Why was this issue voted on in council meeting when it was stated it didn’t need to be as a normal accounts payable and why if it were voted did not need three hearings and public comment?
Would the public not be entitled to know something that has such significance would be removed as these trees are not just shrubs to be cleared from the right of way?
Why was there no action item placed on the agenda?
Why in the information request did it state that no public notice was given but when asked members of the council they stated there was a notice in the water bill but not before the work had already begun?
Why were residents on that street not notified in writing about the safety concerns on that street and the work that would be done?
Why was it said by Qualitree’s employee that he never brings the large machinery to a job “ It was brought here to make a point?”
It seems that in prior meetings there was some concern by Mr. Anawalt, in the development of his property, that the trees in question were his responsibility therefore the road construction portion of the development was halted, supposedly the money to address the trees on personal property would be at great expense. If this is true, how could the trees be on private property in prior meeting minutes but today be on city property?
Would the property owner have something to gain if he stated the property was the property of the city?
Would the city have something to gain if the property were given to the city?
Why are City ordinance books nowhere to found during city council meetings as reference to be cited during approval of ordinances?
How have we come to be a community, a city, state our country, where hired private businesses are afraid to come out in support of the people which appears only to confirm some wrong doing?
Who is in control, is it the people or is it our government? If it is the government, where have they derived this power, if it is the people, why is it they are powerless in the collection of information and holding our officials accountable?
I would ask, what derivations of authority were used to allow this issue to take place and what is the guarantee and protection to the citizens against government overreach?