By Mari Radtke
During public comments Patrice Ewoldt asked about filling some potholes she had asked for. Superintendent Kelly Top was not present to respond. Melinda Hansen asked about the parking issue saying the Fire Chief told her it is not a safety issue. Hansen clarified, “there is no plan then?” She noted that a lot of people were not available for the (prior) Thursday night forum to consider parking issues on narrow streets in Paullina. John Ihle stated, “I don’t buy the – what used to be the Johnson property, then fell into a Jeff Foxworthy joke, and commented the extraordinary height of the grass on the city property saying, “It looks pretty nasty.” Quickly he fell to noting that he hasn’t seen a treasurer’s report since June of 2022. He said that is against the law and is a required monthly report. He asked if we are going to get that or if that was going to fall to the new council. Councilperson Carol Honkomp made an inaudible comment to Mayor Brenda Ebel Kruse who responded, also not audibly. Ihle got no answer to his concerns for financial reports of the city to the public.
O’Brien County Economic Director Kiana Johnson presented her annual report to council. She updated council with the activities of the county’s greatest tool, the Revolving Loan Fund. She provided insight to the county about committees of Economic Development and reiterated OCEDC is dependent upon donations and volunteers. Johnson spoke about the effort underway for a county-wide comprehensive plan and its ability to take advantage of grants for all of O’Brien County when the right grant becomes available for any particular project. She also gave a report from Travel Iowa’s tracking of cell phones to collect visitor data to Paullina over the last 12 months.
A hearing for John and Candy Hahn over cited nuisances violations was set for Monday October 6 at 5:30pm during the next regular meeting.
Ebel Kruse reported the city is up to 90 trees in city property and parking needing removal. Schwebach Tree Removal is scheduled to do that work the week of October 16. Ebel Kruse stated, “They will be coming in to start the process of removing anything with a pink tag, so steer clear of that area with a pink tag.” She went on to say dead and diseased trees on private property also needed to be removed in a timely manner. Glenda Heithus was present and verified that council would no longer allow trees to be planted on the parking, which Ebel Kruse verified. Heithus stated, “I don’t have much of a front yard and when you remove those two trees from the parking I have absolutely not an ounce of shade on the front side of my house. So I wouldn’t be able to plant a tree?” Ebel Kruse responded that other residents have indicated the same concerns and explained that that is what this discussion was to be about. She followed that up with, “Marlin, I know you’ve done some research on this and asked, “Do you want to speak right now about this?” Before she gave the floor, she went on to say she had provided information (to council) about some of the findings of “work arounds” other communities are using to meet the need and want for trees while also keeping control of its own budget in the case like Emerald Ash Borer, now forcing mass tree removal.
Sjaarda said he has not found any other cities that have banned trees in parking. He outlined some issues of concerns such as where power lines would be affected. Placement, alignment, distances from sidewalk, tree species were all noted. Sjaarda noted that the first paragraph of the Paullina ordinance directed toward tree regulation states, “PURPOSE. The purpose of this chapter is to beautify and preserve the appearance of the city by regulating and providing for the planting, care and removal of trees.” In his written submission he asked that Council amend the tree ordinance and provided two options.
Both options offer reinstatement of trees in the parking area with certain restrictions: re-implement restrictions previously in ordinance for alignment, spacing and species; he then added where no overhead power lines exist, maximum height of 30 feet and requiring a permit.
His second proposed option was all of the above plus requiring the resident to be responsible for the removal of existing dead/diseased trees.
His final paragraph states, “The result of Option 2 is that the City will not incur the cost of removal of a tree to be replaced at this time. In the future (possible 30+ years from now) it may incur the cost of removing that tree, but it also may not incur the cost if the current resident at that time wants to replace the tree, in which case the resident will again cover the cost of removal.
He spoke to the benefits of trees including beautification, some health affects, some shade and possibly even some noise abatement.
Discussion of costs to the city, and also costs to residents and the circumstance under which a tree is coming down was lengthy. Sjaarda repeated that under current ordinance the city is obligated to take down trees in parking and no replanting can occur. Sjaarda proposes a resident pays for the removal of a diseased/dead tree in parking and in exchange be allowed to replant a new tree with a permit and under certain circumstances. This led to discussion about providing information to new owners. It was recommended to collect a list of residents who might be interested in paying the cost of tree removal on their own parking. From this discussion came a “citizens’” committee made up of Marlin Sjaarda, Jean Unrau and Steve Heeren.
By Mari Radtke