Tree controversy takes over small Fulton Co. village - 13abc.com Toledo (OH) News, Weather and Sports

Tree controversy takes over small Fulton Co. village

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The people of Pettisville say the real costs of the latest improvement project didn't sink in until they saw the big red 'X' on dozens of trees.  Forty-two trees, most of them aging, have to go.  The small village got federal money through ODOT to improve sidewalks, lights and signs near area school zones.  Through their study, engineers realized multiple trees had to come down but plan to replant more than 30.

"Generally we move forward as we see the project bid...which means cutting down the trees," says ODOT area engineer, Douglas Raby.  "All of those things are improvements and I think that's a positive thing for the community in itself."

"Everybody is upset with the taking down of the trees.  They feel there are ways to get the sidewalks without destroying the look of the community," says Jerry Skates who has lived in Pettisville for 20 years and doesn't want to see the trees cut down.

Project leaders say there's probably no way to leave the marked trees in because of contractual agreements and because the plans in place meet federal guidelines.  The small community would have to pay back what's already been spent on preliminary plans which could add up to nearly $100,000.  County leaders say that's just not feasible.

"I think the benefits outweigh the costs," says Fulton County Commissioner, Perry Rupp.  "I think people need to get beyond the tree issue.  They were going to have to be addressed some day. Why not do it all when ODOT and the federal government will provide $440,000 worth of funding?"

County leaders admit communication should have been better with residents through this process.  They held public hearings two years ago, but many residents say they weren't publicized enough.

"I really think that if we would have had more time in the set up of all this, we could have gotten together as a community and maybe talked this through and never gotten to this point," Skates tells 13abc.

Work is scheduled to start as soon as next week, and leaders say delays or project changes are unlikely.  It's a hard fact to swallow for the Fulton County village that prides itself on its beautiful trees.

"If those trees come down, there's going to be a lot of very hurt people in this community," says Skates.

"Time heals all wounds," Rupp tells 13abc.  "We just have to get some trees growing back that are substantial."



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