Aldermen debate tree planting control

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Tuesday night at the first board meeting of the newadministration, aldermen debated how much control private businessowners should have over beautification and planting on landadjacent to their businesses, but no immediate solutions werereached.

Ward Five Alderman D.W. Maxwell and Ward Four Alderman ShirleyEstes displayed an inability to see eye to eye regarding treesplanted on city land but located in front of privatebusinesses.

“A tree can always be replanted, but we have Brookhaven businessowners who are here during a bad economic time,” Maxwell said. “Wecan really upset these business owners because – even though we alllove trees and think they’re beautiful – everyone doesn’t have thesame opinion. We don’t want them to feel our planting trees isbeing crammed down their throats.”

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Estes countered that in one particular case, a business owner isusing the city property in front of his store to display hisproperty.

“Just like the city needs to respect the property owners, theproperty owners need to respect the city property as well,” Estessaid.

Maxwell said the fact that the trees are potentially blockingvisibility becomes the issue.

“I don’t care if it is city property. It’s in front of theirbusiness,” he said.

Maxwell argued that business owners should be told when changeswill be made or trees will be planted or replanted. Estes said thateight years ago when the trees were initially put in, businessowners were told of the project.

“That discussion took place,” Estes said. “I do know it was donebefore hand. It’s not like we just unilaterally started plantingtrees in front of businesses.”

Maxwell said that solving the problem is just a matter of goodcommunication between city leaders and business owners.

“Well maybe you should serve on that committee,” Estes said.

Following the exchange, board discussions moved on to othertopics.

Meanwhile, work orders were also an order of business at Tuesdaynight’s meeting, with officials pondering ways to improve thesystem.

Aldermen discussed the possibility of revamping the work orderprocess, saying that there have been situations where city workerswill ignore obvious repairs that need to be made because they’renot written on a work order.

“We’ve created a dependency on work orders,” Mayor Les Bumgarnersaid. “Nothing gets done until we have a work order in place.They’ll run over a pothole to go fix a pothole.”

Maxwell was particularly displeased with a situation where astreet sign had been put up next to a stop sign that was leaning,and the stop sign was not fixed.

“All of them should be making notes or either something,”Maxwell said. “This shouldn’t all be left up to the aldermen. Theyrely entirely on us for every detail.”

Ward One Alderman Dorsey Cameron said the responsibility shouldfall to the department heads to instruct their workers in keepingtheir eyes open for things that need improvement.

“This is how it’s been done for years. For instance, whoever’staking (former street department superintendent) Mr. (Jimmy)Griffin’s place, he should just get them in the mindset,” hesaid.

Bumgarner agreed that more initiative should be put on cityemployees who are out moving around in the city quite a bit morethan elected officials.

“Like in the cemetery, just look out there. If you see weeds,cut them,” he said.