Danger, danger: Dead city trees

Matt Westerhold
Jul 11, 2012


Below is an excerpt from a story in Tuesday's Register, and below that is an email the Register received from the resident directly impacted by the city's inability to followup and remove dead trees from city boulevards in a timely manner. 

It does not seem plausible the city had this particular tree "scheduled to be removed" the very same week Mother Nature brought it down, creating the very situation the property owner and resident say they've complained to the city about for two years. That explanation from the city seems like lip service, after the fact.

And the response from city commissioners Jeff Smith and Dee Cole reported in the story seems as if it too is just more lip service. 

The Register has made a public records request to the city for "the schedule" and all other public documents directly related to the tree removal program regarding city-owned trees, but we're not holding our breath.

City commissioners and city officials continue to stonewall the public on records, costs and other related information to the city's federal housing program in which up to $3 million in taxpayer money was stolen and squandered via corruption in city government. Nobody involved in that corruption has been identified by the city, police, prosecutors or the federal government, and nobody has been held accountable for that massive loss of taxpayer money. 

It's important to remember most, if not all, city workers, are honest and hardworking. They care about Sandusky and do their jobs to the best of their ability, every day. And city commissioners are citizen legislators with a pay level and a workload that qualifies them to be called volunteers. To a person, every city commissioner serves because they also care deeply about Sandusky.

But when corruption goes un-addressed for years, it can only mean the structure of government is broken. When residents are continually ignored making legitimate inquiries about important issues and lip service is all they get in response, it can only mean city government is in desperate need of reform.

That's just so obvious.


Resident blames city for deadly consequences

By Andy Ouriel
Register Staff reporter

SANDUSKY -- A ravaging July 1 thunderstorm forced a massive rotting tree to splinter from the foundation and destroy her West Madison Street home and car.

Massie, who miraculously stayed with a neighbor before the storm hit, claims the city knew about the dangerous tree yet did nothing to address the problem.

For two years, her landlord argued and pleaded with city officials to remove the decaying maple tree, which sits just a few feet from the home.

City officials, however, ignored the problem, Massie said.

“I’m pissed off,” Massie said, who carried insurance on her home. “We’ve been fighting with the city for over two years. They need to buy me a new damn car and house. This is their fault. Now I don’t know what I’m going to do.”

At Monday’s city commission meeting, general services superintendent Scott Miller said a crew would have cut down the tree this week.

“It was scheduled to be removed,” Miller said. “Obviously, we didn’t make it there in enough time.”

Miller’s employees, who also oversee road maintenance and recreation activities, can’t dedicate enough time needed solely to cut down trees.

Those staff members actually cut down hundreds of trees.

“Probably the No.1 phone call I get is about citizens (wanting the city to) cut down their trees,” Sandusky city commissioner Jeff Smith said. “These guys are working very hard, and we’re understaffed right now and can’t get out to everyone’s trees.”

Sandusky city commissioner Diedre Cole recommended the city create a link on its website, where residents could report damaged or dangerous trees.


Email from Tanna M. Massie, dated July 11, 2012:

This is in regards to Andy's article about the meeting the city had Monday night, and Scott Miller's remark about the tree.  He implied that the tree was slated to come down this week, well that is just false, if that were true, why didn't they tell my landlord when he was down at the city building last Wednesday asking about the tree again? Or now that I am homeless, the friend I am staying with Fran Voltz, called and left a message about the tree last week, because she was worried the tree would end up on her house.  She had also left a message and sent an e-mail last year and never got a response.  

Seems pretty strange to me that since the meeting, they came back down and cut the tree down, after the workers told my neighbor Monday that the tree probably wouldn't be taken care of for about a year. I might be able to go back home by October, I am glad Scott has his own bed to sleep in at night, that privelege was taken away from me due to negligence.



Re: dead trees

It appeared to me that the issue was a rotten tree and not a dead tree.

A tree can be hollow and not be dead.

Those are the ones that can cause the most amount ot problems, and it's hard to predict when the tree becomes "unsafe".



I think this situation is unacceptable the way the city handled everything.  Did you notice that when Andy, the reporter, got up to talk about the tree at the city commission meeting and they replayed the tape, that protion was cut out?   It is in the ordinance that if a property owner is not satisfied with the way the city is handling their complaint of a tree that they can go to the city commissioners and voice their opinion. I would think that once the city is aware of the bad tree that responsibility lays with the city and not an act of God situation.  The city was told over and over of the tree situation and they chose to do nothing about it.

car 54

  I'm disappointed most in Commissioner Smith.    I quess I expected a working commissioner. 2. What's happening with Sandusky Proud? 


If it was that bad, the homeowner should of just had the damn thing removed! Take some responsibility for your own actions (or inactions). If your waiting for the broke-assed city of Sandusky for over two years, you need to take some responsibility in this matter.Wake up Sandusky residents. If you want more government, you will need to pay for it!


Our city is supposed to be a Tree City.  With that comes documentation of trees in the city in order to meet the criteria of being a tree city.   Part of the function of the department is to document trees that were taken down and at what address, so I expect the city needs to hand over the paperwork requested by the Register.  There should be monthly reports as to what the street department did all day such as a daily work log. All you get are excuses and you are on the list statements.  Someone should at least responded to the caller.  On Monday, no one from staff said they would try to correct what went wrong.  Everything is blamed on shortness of staff and money.  I hardly think that hundreds of trees were taken down over a year's time, especially when the city is refusing to take down the dead trees.


My neighbors and I have been dealing with a similar situation, only ours has been ongoing for FOUR YEARS now! I appreciate that the City is understaffed and that City workers might not be able to come right on over as soon as they hang up the phone. But four years? Really?

trafficman, if the tree is on the boulevard, the homeowner isn't allowed to touch it. Yes, we have to mow or we get fined. Yes, we have to pay property taxes on that land, or we get our wages garnished or go to jail. But if we try to do anything but keep it neat, we get in trouble. And, of course, the City can't be bothered, either, at least not at the moment.

Several of us have had our houses, vehicles, or other property damaged due to ongoing tree problems. And now this mess, which is obviously pretty serious. Having dealt with something far more minor but still extremely expensive and more than a little inconvenient, my heart goes out to the property owner and the resident! So, what's the deal, here? Does somebody have to DIE before the City does its job???


I think all towns (cities) have issues with old trees. With as many trees as there are in Sandusky (and other towns), maybe the city should just have all trees removed from the boulevards. Then you wouldn't have a tree problem. I also think that if you knew the tree was bad, if you had gone to the city and offered to pay to have it cut down, then they probably would have jumped on the offer. For some reason, people think the city has all kinds of money to spend on their individual problems. If you think your city workers aren't doing their job, talk to your city officials about it. It's easy to sit and complain, but if you really want things to get better, then do something to help the situation.


Have some trees in my neighborhood that really need to come down.   They are coming down on there own~hunk by hunk~luckily noone has been hurt yet~YET!   Buuuut, the city does come and pick up the "hunks".   Short staffed, short staffed~that's all you hear everywhere and it is VERY true Buuuuut~I think it's time to quit hiring admin everywhere and start to hire workers that actually do the jobs needing done~EVERYWHERE!   No, let's just keep hiring admin~THAT WE DON'T NEED!


First off, when a tree is starting to hollow, it is dying....definitely on it's last "stump"!! It's dead!

@grandmasgirl> re-read the article!! They talked to as many people as they could possibly deal with, yet the damage is STRAIGHT IN YOUR FACE!!

I probably will see some trees coming down by willful property owners that won't want to see this situation anymore, but I'm sure the city will still make money from the fines!!

A TRUE Tree City only wants the healthy....by definition they want dead, diseased or disabled trees GONE!!  it makes room for more growth and positive natural habitat.  I don't understand why they just don't take a crew out for several weeks in spring before storms hit to take down these monsters!


@ Darkhorse

I believe the Forestry dept. (2 employees) handle tree removal and trimming. NOT the street dept. Try and keep up will ya'?

Julie R.

"But when corruption goes on un-addressed for years, it can only mean the structure of government is broken. When residents are continually ignored making legitimate inquiries about important issues and lip service is all they get in response, in can only mean that city government is in desperate need of reform." 

The city of Sandusky sounds like a clone of the courts on the 2nd floor of the Erie County courthouse.   


 I trim up the tree on the blvd in front of my house.  They can fine me all they want, I really don't care.  I had contacted the forestry dept. in May about the dead tree in front of my neighbor's house and they took it down in mid June.  Granted, they left the street a total mess with debris, but they got it down in a timely manner.  I wish they'd do something about the moron on Adrian Circle whose vehicle has leaked several gallons of power steering fluid all over the street.  It's disgusting not to mention an environmental issue.



Re:First off, when a tree is starting to hollow, it is dying....

I don't have a problem with that opinion.

A family member has a walnut tree that has a hole and is starting to rot. I checked the amount of rot and suggested that it should be taken down. I took a coat hanger, made a half inch loop in the end and shoved it down about two feet into the soft rotten wood.

A big name company "arborist" was called for a second opinion. He came out looked down the hole, did not probe the rot, shot a can of foam in the hole. He had his climber go up run a couple of lags into two limbs with a small cable between them and said, "That will keep it from splitting."

We are waiting for a third opinion from another "arborist" that is going to come out, dig out the foam, dig down and see if he can determine the extent of the rot. The recent storms are holding up his visit.

All this to say, "Opinions are like .......... everyone is an expert and has one".


Sandusky Register Reader's picture
Sandusky Regist...

Aaahhh come on stop stonewalling SANDUSKY -- pay up -- give the lady and her homeowner the proper repairs or replacements or you're likely to get sued! I I don't blame them one bit.  If they don't sue you I'm sure their insurance companies will for the cities negligence.


I would think that it is an act of God if no one was aware of the condition.  If they were aware of the situation, I would think the city could be held liable.  The lady needs to check with an attorney and not give up so easily.