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Ogdensburg seeks legal advice on residential tree pruning

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OGDENSBURG - City Attorney Andrew W. Silver is being asked to render a legal interpretation on whether property ownersor the city government are responsible for maintaining trees growing between the sidewalk and the street curb.

The issue of tree maintenance and responsibility came up at Monday’s City Council meeting when Councilman Michael D. Morley informed City Manager John M. Pinkerton that he recently spoke to a homeowner who has a dead tree that needs to be taken down by the Department of Public Works. Mr. Morley said the tree was located between the sidewalk and curb and therefore on city property.

“When the city starts taking down trees, she’d like that one taken down. It’s completely dead,” Mr. Morley said.

Councilman Wayne L. Ashley then mentioned that he was aware of several other trees located near sidewalks that needed pruning.

“There are several trees in the city where you have to walk out around the sidewalk, either that or get your eyes poked out,” Mr. Ashley said.

The exchange prompted Mr. Pinkerton to question whether landowners should be more responsible, especially for the pruning of trees located along the strip of land between the city streets and sidewalk. Mr. Pinkerton said he takes care of such trees on his own property.

“Isn’t that up to the landowner?” Mr. Pinkerton responded. “I do that at my house.”

Mayor William D. Nelson sided with Mr. Pinkerton, saying that in his opinion property owners even have the right to cut down trees on the other side of a city sidewalk, if they choose.

Councilwoman Jennifer Stevenson was also drawn into the fray, pointing out that she has personally seen DPW workers trimming tree branches at locations around the city.

“I will tell you that I know the city crews do go around, and they do trim the trees, because they’ve been trained in how to do this and they made sure so that the snow plows can get underneath,” Ms. Stevenson said.

However, Mr. Pinkerton said tree pruning should be viewed no differently than the responsibility homeowners have for keeping their grass mowed.

“I think at one point somebody has got to take responsibility for their area,” Mr. Pinkerton said. “We are citizens of the city of Ogdensburg. Everybody says the city ought to do it. We are ‘the city.’ Each and every one of us.”

Councilman William D. Hosmer called for Mr. Pinkerton to seek a legal answer from the city attorney regarding who is responsible for the trees, as did Ms. Stevenson and Mr. Ashley.

Mr. Pinkerton said he would seek the legal advice, although he still felt property owners should do more to maintain their own parcels.

“I would think though, as a citizen of Ogdensburg, roll up your sleeves and get part of the effort. You’re part of the solution, not part of the problem,” Mr. Pinkerton said.

Mayor Nelson agreed.

“The problem is our country has become reliant on your government to do everything, and that’s sad,” Mr. Nelson said.

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