Parkersburg City Council approves pilot tree program

Sidewalk item sent to committee

Lights over the audience’s seats in Parkersburg City Council chambers remained on thanks to the Municipal Building’s generator during Tuesday’s council meeting following an electrical outage, although the lights above the council dais and members’ microphones were without power. (Photo by Evan Bevins)

PARKERSBURG — A pilot program to split the cost of removing potentially hazardous trees with property owners was approved Tuesday by Parkersburg City Council, but a proposal to do the same for commercial properties on sidewalk repair was sent to committee.

Under the program, the city would pay half the cost to remove a tree in the municipal right of way that has been determined by a certified arborist to be dangerous, deceased or damaged to the point that it is a hazard. The adjoining property owner, who under city code is responsible for the tree, would pay for the arborist’s evaluation and the other half of the removal, down to the stump.

Mayor Tom Joyce said the impetus for the proposal was concern over large trees the city doesn’t have the equipment or funding to address. Although the trees are not the city’s responsibility, it does receive inquiries about them, he said.

“The city has over the years cut down a lot of trees that we weren’t responsible for,” Joyce said. “We can’t afford to do that anymore.”

That also pulls employees off of other duties, Joyce said.

Parkersburg City Councilman J.R. Carpenter, left, speaks during discussion of a pilot program to split with property owners the cost of removing potentially hazardous trees in the city right of way. The resolution passed on a 7-1 vote during Tuesday’s council meeting at the Municipal Building. (Photo by Evan Bevins)

Councilman John Reed asked who would be removing the trees. Joyce said he intends for it to be an outside entity and the city would solicit quotes for the work.

Councilman Jeff Fox asked if residents who had a tree that was a concern because of its size and proximity to their property, but not considered at-risk, could apply for the program.

“If it’s not a tree that needs to come down, then they would not participate in this program,” City Attorney Joe Santer said.

The resolution passed 7-1, with Fox opposed and Councilman Bob Mercer absent. A funding source for the program was not specified.

Like trees in city rights of way, sidewalks are also the responsibility of property owners. Parkersburg has had a program for about 10 years under which residents can pay for materials to repair or install a sidewalk at their property and the city will provide the labor.

Parkersburg City Councilman Dave McCrady, left, thanks Fire Chief Jason Matthews for the work of firefighters and EMTs in extinguishing a New Year’s Day fire on Hillcrest Street in his district during Tuesday’s council meeting as Councilwoman Sharon Kuhl listens. (Photo by Evan Bevins)

Under the pilot program considered Tuesday, the city would pay 50 percent of the cost of the labor to repair and relay sections of sidewalk in front of businesses, with the property owner paying for the other half and the materials. Joyce said it would be his preference that that work also be contracted out, although Engineer Adam Stout had developed a formula for the cost-sharing if the work was done by municipal employees.

Fox made a motion to send the measure to the Finance Committee, which passed on a 5-3 vote with Reed, Councilman Eric Barber and Council President Mike Reynolds opposed. Fox said he thought additional information on the program was needed.

“We already have a very utilized program in place for residents, and I believe there’s a waiting list for that,” he said.

In other business:

∫ Council voted 8-0 to approve a resolution allowing Joyce to accept a $119,000 Recycling Assistance Grant from the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection that would be used to purchase a recycling truck, asphalt for the recycling center, a shelter for tire storage, recycling bins and more.

∫ A resolution to apply to the Wood County Commission for permission to annex 1700 Ninth Ave. also passed 8-0.

∫ Council approved 8-0 a resolution requesting a Community Development Block Grant budget revision for $5,600 to cover a fee for refinancing the federal loan on the Point Park project. The refinancing is expected to save the city more than $125,000.

∫ Joyce’s reappointments of Sean Andrews and Tim Utt and appointment of Mike Williams to the Central Downtown Business District Design and Facade Committee were approved 8-0.

∫ The meeting was held during a power outage, but a portion of the lights in council chambers remained on because of the Municipal Building’s generator.