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Platteville council chops down tree removal charge
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PLATTEVILLE — City of Platteville staff worked on two recommendations to the Common Council — reconfiguring staff to create a director of administration, and assessing fees against property owners if their trees fall onto city streets or sidewalks and city employees have to remove them.

The Common Council June 26 narrowly approved one recommendation and rejected the other.

The council voted 4–3 to approve the job description for the director of administration position in the city’s Finance Department, a position the Common Council voted to create in 2011.

“It’s too early to continue the staffing plan until we see savings,” said District 2 Ald. Eileen Nickels, who said she was “not opposed” to considering the position in the 2013 budget, but the position was not in the 2012 budget. “I’m just not comfortable with continuing to add a position at this time.”

“We’re getting too top-heavy,” said District 4 Ald. Ken Kilian.

Common Council President Mike Dalecki said the position was part of changes to streamline city administration with the goal of saving $200,000 to $250,000.

“And if that holds true I think we can revisit this,” replied Nickels.

District 3 Ald. Barb Daus said the position added a net $6,000 to personnel expenses. But City Manager Larry Bierke said the actual net cost would be less than $3,000 since the person hired for the position would be working less than a full year.

The job description passed 4–3, with Nickels, Kilian and at-large Ald. Dick Bonin opposed.

After the vote, Daus asked whether the vote had actually passed, since a budget adjustment requires a two-thirds vote. Bierke said the position may not require a budget adjustment.

“I don’t think this makes this a done deal,” said Dalecki.

The other proposal from city staff would have charged property owners when trees or tree limbs fall and “become a hazard to public property,” said Community Planning and Development Director Joe Carroll.

Delete - MerThe tree recommendation was “to improve staff response and decrease costs” given that such incidents usually occur on nights or weekends, said Carroll.

Trees are supposed to clear sidewalks by at least 7½ feet, and streets by at least 14 feet.

Director of Public Works Howard Crofoot said the city can now charge property owners if a property owner doesn’t respond to a notice of violation. He added that property owners are “generally not charged back for clearance above the street,” only for insufficient sidewalk clearance.

At-large Ald. Steve Becker asked if a storm hit the city whether city employees would keep track of from which houses they cleared trees or branches, “and add $50 and send them the bill — is that what you’re talking about?”

“Yes, essentially,” said Crofoot.

Nickels’ motion against the charge passed 5–2, with Kilian and at-large Ald. Patrice Steiner opposed.