Citizens who complained to The Missourian about the condition of the trees that were planted as part of the West Osage improvement project will soon see some response from the city, according to Mayor Herb Adams.
“As elected officials, we need to thank citizens who complain because that tells us how we’re doing or what we need to be doing,” Adams said. “Citizens’ concerns are a priority with me and I’ll act on this within the week.”
West Osage was widened and rebuilt with new curbs and gutters, new sidewalks, vintage streetlights and the decorative trees at the time the new eastbound Interstate 44 interchange was completed.
The businesses along West Osage formed the West Osage Community Improvement District (CID) to collect special sales tax to pay for the city’s portion of the cost of the improvements.
Approximately 50 saplings were planted in the strip between the curb and sidewalk along West Osage from Payne Street to Hoven Drive.
A total of 24 of the trees are dead, one is broken off halfway up the trunk and others have suckers growing from their bases.
The Missourian questioned officials about the trees after citizens, who asked not to be identified, asked what the city intended to do about the trees that had died, were damaged, or had suckers that were changing the shape of the plant.
“They keep talking about beautifying our city, but this isn’t beautiful,” one citizen said. “Couldn’t they at least remove the dead trees from the median and trim around the base of the healthy ones?”
City Administrator Harold Selby said it would be the responsibility of the city to replace the trees that had died and that probably would be done in the fall, which is considered the best time for replanting trees.
But Alderman Steve Myers said he talked with Selby, who had since been reviewing the complaints, and determined that it might be the Missouri Department of Transportation’s (MoDOT) responsibility to replace the dead trees.
Alderman Mike Pigg also said the condition of the trees was MoDOT’s responsibility. Pigg said he had seen city workers water the trees and use a weed eater to trim around their base. He said MoDOT would not allow the city to remove the dead trees.
Pigg also said he has never liked the trees because some are planted close to traffic signs to block the message from view when they are full grown and the trees are so close to the sidewalk there is a possibility they will push up the sidewalk.
“I don’t think we should have ever put them there,” he said.
Adams said the city could not afford to take citizens’ concerns about the trees lightly. He said the city is — at the present time — talking to East Osage property owners, asking them to approve the formation of a community improvement district (CID) and collect a special sales tax to rebuild East Osage to match the improvements on West Osage.
“We’re telling them we want to make their end of the street look like the West end,” Adams said. “The appearance of West Osage is important.”
Because of the way the West Osage improvements were funded, with MoDOT and the city sharing the cost, Adams said he’s uncertain who was responsible for the trees, but would make certain that the dead trees are removed and the healthy trees trimmed.
“I want citizens to know that we’re serious about the appearance of our city,” Adams said.
The mayor said he felt the city had been remiss in not acting on the trees sooner. He said he had noticed one dead tree, but had not analyzed the entire streetscape. After learning that citizens were concerned, he says he will act quickly.
“We’re asking the citizens to take care of their property,” he noted. “We should take care of ours.”
Adams also said that the city had recently removed several shrubs located on the bank between city hall and I-44 because citizens had claimed that they looked bad.
“Citizens claimed that the bushes were unsightly and we acted,” Adams said. “West Osage is the entrance to our city. We’ll figure out what action we need to take there.”