Listen to this article

PIPER CITY — A well-intentioned effort to clean up Piper City’s alleys resulted in one homeowner expressing anger at the village board.

Doug and Barb Smith were present at the Oct. 2 board meeting to complain about damage done to a row of upright arborvitae trees that screen their backyard from an alley. The couple said they thought standard procedures would include notifying them before shaving the backside of their well-tended, 20-year-old trees.

Village Board President Jeff Orr admitted that, in hindsight, he had not given village employees enough direction. The board previously agreed that alleyways needed to be cleared of trees within the village’s 24-foot right-of-way. Orr said alleys need to remain clear for law enforcement patrols, mosquito spraying and fire department access.

Orr did not blame the village’s employees, however.

“I didn’t give them enough direction for situations like yours,” Orr said, referring to when encroaching trees are not considered weed trees. Orr said the village was within its rights to make the trim but should have done a better job of communication.

Doug Smith, meanwhile, asserted there was a process under a previous administration in 2001, which he had read online, that directed trustees and homeowners to have a discussion in advance of such action.

Smith said village officials have not contacted him in the 38 years he has lived there.

“Then your first action is to cut it down?” Smith asked incredulously.

Smith then wondered aloud why the village did not first concentrate on weed trees, asking if his trees were the worst offenders.

All board members sympathized with the damage to Smith’s trees, but they offered no remedy beyond their sincere apologies for the lack of communication.

“It should have been handled differently,” said Trustee Doug Barry, “but it wasn’t, and there’s nothing we can do about it now.”

Other public comments

Resident Kathy Stamm asked if the pressure being put on a neighboring yard for cleanup would stop now that the property has been halfway cleaned up. Code enforcement officer Janet Walker said she has a meeting scheduled soon to follow up on the cleanup’s completion.

Stamm also questioned if dead tree debris would be cleared from village-owned trees. Stamm was told that this was a matter for tree professionals with lifts, and they are currently concentrating on the ash tree problem.

Code enforcement report

Walker apologized for having no report prepared regarding her recent code-enforcement efforts. Walker said she was recently injured and hospitalized after a fall down her home’s steps.

Walker said she was currently focusing on unsightly yards and inoperable vehicles. Walker said she was waiting for clarity on the definition of an inoperable vehicle, however.

“Once the code revision is done (by the board), things will be a lot easier,” Walker said.

Walker emphasized that she continues to be impressed with quick responses by property owners to violations she brings to their attention. Walker did note that several improvements are “a work in progress.”

Concerned for youth safety, Walker said she is also looking into the legality of children riding small motorized vehicles on streets. Walker said she is awaiting a call-back from the Ford County Sheriff’s Office regarding her inquiry.

Branch Park improvements

Board members voted to install certified landscape mulch instead of pea gravel to provide a safer surface underneath the new playground unit at the Branch Park, as well as the existing merry-go-round and monkey bars at the park and under new baby and inclusive swings that will soon be installed there.

Trustee Julie Bertrand said the equipment representative recommended a depth of six inches. Orr will contact KKR Landscaping of Piper City to do the job.

Property improvements

A new roof will be installed over the east well house. Trustee Paul Mogged had inspected the roof, which is rotting from underneath.

“It’s shot,” Mogged said.

Trustees approved a $1,700 quote from Mylcraine Construction of Piper City to tear off and install a new roof, which needs to include access for firefighters. Expecting there could be some unknown complications, the board’s motion was for an amount not to exceed $2,000 for all labor and materials. Potential problems beyond that amount must be submitted as a change order to be reviewed by Orr.

Meanwhile, a proposal to cover park bathroom soffit areas with steel was postponed due to confusion over pricing.

Also, trustees learned of a $2,517 bid received from Greg Wahls Construction of Piper City to reroof the small downtown pavilion that is believed to date from the 1980s. Barry suggested the possibility of volunteer involvement. It was agreed the project would be tough to complete this fall, so the project will be considered again in spring 2020.

Fundraiser approved

Trustees approved Lynn Barryhill’s request to hold the annual Zombie Central event on Saturday, Oct. 26, in front of the bandstand on Peoria Avenue in downtown Piper City. Barryhill said the event’s “Thriller” dance will raise funds for small cell cancers.