Conshohocken Steals a Good Old Tree

Yesterday morning as I left for work I noticed the no parking sign on a telephone pole near our house. The sign wasn’t there the night before, and I figured they were doing some street cleaning or something else minor. When I arrived home, I saw a view of my home that I had never seen in the five plus years I have owned it – a view without the 100 plus year old tree that stood taller than our three story house. During the day, someone had taken down the tree that provided shade and distinction to our home. To be accurate, the tree was on my neighbor’s side of our twin, but we still loved having it here.

What was crazy was that no one had any idea why the tree was taken down. It was healthy. While it was large, and was affecting the sidewalk slightly, I have seen much worse – all the roots were under ground. There were no phone lines or electrical lines that passed over the tree. No obvious reason to remove the tree. No note; no explanation. I called the neighbor, he had no idea. I called the city council president, she had no idea. I left messages for our council person and then left it for the night. This morning, I saw two men outside our house, I went outside and spoke to them. One as in charge of Conshohocken Public Works, the other an engineer for the company responsible for the job. Apparently there is a huge public works project to redo the street, curbs, and sewer system on our entire avenue – close to a mile long. As part of this project the city, who contracted the job out to a contractor, who sub-contracted the sidewalk work out to someone else. Those contractors were supposed to notify the homeowners that the trees were being taken – and didn’t. I spoke to the borough manager and he didn’t know they were taking these trees. No one knows anything apparently.

I spoke to the council president tonight and was told that we should have been told about the tree being taken. But I told her the fault was even greater – we weren’t even briefed on a job that one man called “the largest public works project that Conshohocken had undertaken in years”. When I said that we should have been informed, she said the township can’t inform people of every little project. She said it was in the paper (some local paper I think). She said it was discussed at council meetings (last one I attended, a fist fight broke out between two council people over parking). I told her, that Conshohocken’s joke of a website had no info. That they could have sent a letter. Something. A job of this magnitude should have warranted more than apologies.

Ineffectual leaders. This town is run by people without the communication skill to be cashiers, much less representatives. They will pass the buck, and say that it is the fault of the people they hired, but as a citizen we elect our officials and at the very least I expect them to tell us what bad decisions they make. I know that’s naive – but it’s the base minimum expectation. It’s always said that we need to be more involved in our local affairs – that local government has more impact on our day to day lives. It makes you feel very small to know that people in an office somewhere can make decisions like this without letting you know. Trust me, I’m going to be raising holy hell.

To add insult to injury, today they ground down the stump and in the process sent debris through the window of our neighbor’s screen door. The glass was cleaned up as well as the debris, but no note accepting responsibility – just a broken window.

What’s scary is that this is a 3 year project. It’s off to a banner start.

 

  • http://moodyboy.com Kenny

    Jesus effing Christ. If I didn’t know any better I’d say you lived right here in the dirty souf where our politicians are better known for pulling a loaded shotgun on utility workers in a district they’re not even supposed to live, based on electoral region, than for sound policy making. Makes you go “hmmm?”, right? To be compared to Memphis? I guess a political machine is a political machine, regardless of the locale. My regrets for your loss.

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  • http://www.vividcircle.com Melissa Walter

    I was seriously appalled as I drove down Spring Mill Ave a few days ago. All I could think was “who ok’d this massacre”? The entire landscape of the street has been forever altered. Or at least altered for the next 50 years. My next thought was “I wonder how this affects Spencer and Kristen’s cooling bill”? Then I wondered how it affects property value. How can the town make such a drastic and irreversible decision without being in direct contact with the homeowners? My guess is that this was kept on the down-low on purpose. The less you guys knew, the less resistance they’d have to manage. Now that the damage (and I do use the word DAMAGE purposely) is done, the town can just shrug their shoulders and say “oh well, you didn’t get the memo?” I agree, this is exactly why you (and we) have to be in constant contact with officials who make decisions that can thoughtlessly alter our lives.

  • http://www.cynicsgirl.blogspot.com/ Cyn

    This is disturbing on a couple of levels (as you well know.) What a beautiful tree that was. I would be just as furious as you if this happened to me. It changes the whole feel of your property to lose a tree like that.

    Not being an arborist, I’ll just guess maybe it was a life-span issue they are just trying to be proactive about (to avoid the risk of that grand old tree coming down on you or your home and the risk of lawsuit. Does the borough have responsiblity for maintaining trees (when they still existed, that is) or is this the homeowners’ responsibility?

    I agree with what Melissa wrote above — if you don’t know, you can’t stop them. However, it still amazes me that the local machine wouldn’t have had to at least give you a day’s notice to make sure your car wasn’t on the street or whatever.

    Probably you couldn’t have done anything to prevent it from coming down, even if you had been notified. But you SHOULD have been notified, no doubt.

  • Damien D. Brewster

    Spencer,

    I am sorry to hear about your tree. I live a few blocks from you, and I didn’t hear about the “the largest public works project that Conshohocken had undertaken in years” either. My guess is that the reason we weren’t told about the project has something to do with how the contract for the work was awarded and who it was awarded to.

    I have heard from a former council member that Conshohocken public works contracts are awarded something like this: The borough doesn’t solicit open bidding for the contract. The borough awards the contract to councilman Joe’s brother-in-law, because he “always does the street work.” Nobody asks any questions about how much his bid was for, and whether the job could be done better or cheaper. Later that summer, councilman Joe’s family stays at the contractor’s shore house for a few weeks. Or the contractor fixes Joe’s son’s house for free. You get the picture. So the Borough doesn’t want the taxpayers asking too many questions about these projects. If we’re not informed, we can’t ask questions.