Backlog of dead trees tower over power lines, threaten homes in Cleveland

Posted at 11:25 PM, Jul 18, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-18 23:25:29-04

Cleveland is spending close to a million dollars to combat a backlog of thousands of hazardous dead trees, but some neighbors worry that’s still not enough.

City Council approved spending $900,000 on a contractor to help with tree trimming, Ward 8 Councilman Mike Polensek says. That’s in addition to two urban forestry crews expected to come online after last year’s income tax increase.

The city has a backlog of about 3,800 trees on city property that need to come down. That’s not including dead trees on private property where city residents can’t afford to take them down.

Many of those trees threaten power lines and tower over homes.

Kate Kearney says she’s complained about the massive dead tree in front of her Bridge Avenue home for the last three years.

“Who’s going to reimburse me when that thing comes crashing down and smashes everything?” Kearney asked. "And this has been going on for three long years. I’ve called every city department. You name it. I’ve called.”

Kearney said she’s scared to park her car underneath it and worries a bad storm could send the tree crashing through her second story bedroom.

Polensek says the additional money is just a fraction of what’s needed to clear the backlog.

“Stadiums are nice, Quicken Loans Arena is nice, but you know what? That’s not going to help the people in our neighborhoods who need assistance right now,” Polensek said.

Kearney doubts the additional crews will make much of a dent and said she believes it’s part of a bigger problem with lacking city services, that threaten to reverse the progress her west side neighborhood has made in recent years.

“This neighborhood’s coming back,” Kearney said. "People are spending a lot of money on these houses over here and a lot of people are going to head back to the burbs saying, you know, I can’t even get a city service like this for a dead tree?”

News 5 has been requesting an on camera interview with a Public Works official for more than a week. The director, Michael Cox, is taking time off to help re-elect Mayor Frank Jackson. A city spokesperson has declined requests for other department officials to be interviewed.

RELATED: Cleveland Public Works Dir. takes months off work to assist in Mayor Jackson's re-election campaign