Split council rejects plan to move felled trees

Opting not to follow board’s recommendation, Port aldermen say cut ash do not present a flood hazard

STANDING AMID THE tree trunks, branches and other debris left behind when the City of Port Washington and We Energies cut down dead and dying ash trees on public land behind their house were Donna and Pete Billmann. Photo by Sam Arendt
Ozaukee Press staff


Ozaukee Press staff

The dead ash trees felled by the City of Port Washington along Valley Creek between Parkway Drive and Parkview Lane won’t be moved after all.

On a 3-4 vote last week, the Common Council decided not to spend $7,000 to move some of the ash trees the city took down this fall to an area outside the floodplain that’s about halfway up Parkview Lane, near the area where Valley Creek bends to the southwest.

The Board of Public Works had recommended the work be done, saying it would alleviate the concerns of area residents who feared floodwaters could move the trees downstream where they would jam the creek and cause their homes to be flooded.

Roughly 350 trees were taken down last fall because of fears they would fall on residents’ properties, damaging property and potentially harming people, Public Works Director Rob Vanden Noven said.

“Our intent was to leave the felled trees where they were,” Vanden Noven said, adding staff members do not believe there is a significant risk of the trees being moved by the creek.

Even if they did, Ald. Mike Gasper said, they would likely float to the Norport Drive culvert where, if there was a jam, water would flow over the street and back into the creek.

Concerns about the city’s decision to cut the trees didn’t begin until after they had been felled. Although the city notified residents that it would be cutting the trees, many said they were shocked to see the number of trees that were cut and to find that the city was not going to remove them.

“It’s horrendous. It looks like a tornado came through,” Donna Billmann said last month, adding that the potential for flooding is frightening to residents.

“Every family here is terrified — if it jams up, what’s going to happen,” she said.

Officials said they don’t have the money or the equipment necessary to remove the trees from the area. 

Ald. Mike Ehrlich, who represents the area where the trees were cut, said he had received numerous calls from constituents concerned about not just the safety issue but also the aesthetics.

“The aesthetics are rough. It’s a lot of stuff,” he said. “I had no idea there were that many trees coming down. I have a lot of unhappy constituents.”

But some aldermen said the recommendation didn’t mean the trees would be removed, just moved to another area.

“We’re just moving the aesthetic (concerns) north,” Ald. Paul Neumyer said. 

“A different set of residents would have to look at the timber then,” Ald. Jonathan Pleitner noted.

Ash trees will decompose relatively quickly, Neumyer said, and the city will be planting new trees in the area that will take the place of those that were felled.

“They aren’t on the residents’ property,” he said, noting the trees are on city land, and they are not likely to cause a safety issue.

The $7,000 the city would save by not moving the trees could be spent elsewhere, Ald. Dan Benning said, especially since officials don’t believe they will cause a significant problem. 

“Quite honestly, for $7,000 there are a lot of other things in the city that would be of value,” he said.

Voting to move the trees were Ehrlich and aldermen Pat Tearney and John Sigwart.

Voting not to move the trees were Benning, Neumyer, Pleitner and Gasper.


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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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