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Tree discussion gets intense at Coulee Dam


Bruce Bartoo shows a cracked sidewalk in front of his home and one of the trees he has permission to cut down. The council, by a 3-2 vote, approved his request to cut two of the town's trees down. - Roger S. Lucas photo

A Coulee Dam resident admonished locals for feeding deer and squirrels and proclaimed that it was unlawful to do so. The subject then turned to trees, and that's when the Coulee Dam town council meeting last Wednesday turned ugly.

Bruce Bartoo, who lives on Stevens Street, started the public discussion off with his comments about deer and squirrels, then quickly brought up the fact that he wanted to cut down two town-owned trees. He said the roots were destroying the town's sidewalk and his yard and driveway.

He stated that the trees have been a problem for some time and that he had taken it to the Natural Resources Board (tree board) and that its members had agreed with him. Bartoo is also a member of the tree board. He said he would replace the trees with whatever type of tree the town suggests.

Bartoo said this week that both of his properties, 315 Stevens, a rental, and 310 Stevens, his residence, were mentioned in his tree board request. Trees are a problem at both locations, he said.

The morning after the council voted to allow Bartoo to take the two trees down, Mayor Greg Wilder stated that the council decision was going to be delayed because the council had voted on the wrong property.

During the council meeting Councilmember Gayle Swagerty spoke up and said that the matter had to go back to the tree board for review.

Bartoo stood his ground and gave several dates, going back to early spring, when taking the trees down was the subject before the tree board group.

After listening to the debate for a half hour or so, Councilmember Duane Johnson made a motion that would allow Bartoo to move forward and take the trees down. Councilmember Ben Alling quickly seconded the motion.

But it didn't stop there: Swagerty insisted that the removal of the trees was still a tree board issue and should be handled by the tree board before the council got involved.

Mayor Greg Wilder asked each councilmember to comment on the issue. That took another 15 minutes before a call for a vote was made. Johnson, Alling and Councilmember Ken Miles voted for the removal of the trees. Swagerty and council newcomer David Schmidt, who is also on the tree board, voted against the tree removal. Schmidt had been seated on the council earlier in the evening to replace Shawn Derrick, who had indicated that he wasn't going to be able to fill out his term.

The trees are the issue, Bartoo said late last week. The roots have grown up into his yard and clear over to his driveway. The sidewalk, which is bulging from the tree roots, is the town's problem, he stated. The roots of one of the trees has raised a section of the sidewalk a couple of inches and could be a hazard to walkers, Bartoo said.

He said the trees are coming down.

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