<--- Can you trust this man with your trees?
COLUMBIA, Mo 12/3/13 (Beat Byte) -- A city official with one of the worst records on public trust in recent memory told Columbia City Council members Monday night he wants to "work with property owners in the Old Southwest" to remove trees he characterized as "dead or critical."
But public works director John Glascock emphasized his department would "return to the Council" should property owners in the Old Southwest fail to cooperate with a massive tree removal project.
A city staff report has identified 134 trees that "need immediate removal" in the Old Southwest, a neighborhood of older homes bordered by Providence, Broadway, and Stadium Blvd.
A list of trees marked for removal around Columbia is online at this link.
Glascock's prior dealings with property owners facing tree removal have been problematic. Last year, his department arborist, Chad Herwald, attempted to cut down several decades-old sweet gum trees on Westwood Avenue without public notice, causing a neighborhood uproar. The controversy continued when records surfaced Herwald was running a tree consulting business on the side.
This year, a public works contractor clear cut trees on a GetAbout Columbia trail near Hinkson Creek, outraging nearby property owners.
Prompted when Third Ward Councilman Karl Skala pulled the tree removal project from the city's automatic consent agenda, last night's discussion became confusing when Glascock implied his crews would chop down trees on private property.
The ordinance before Council members last night granted $150,000 to remove trees in "street rights-of-way," which are public property.
"The trees we can work with the property owner on, we will -- and we'll take 'em down without any issues," Glascock explained. "But if we have some we need to absolutely come down, and we can't come to some agreement with the property owners, we will come back to Council for those."
Glascock did not explain why city crews would need Council help to remove trees on public property. Council members could presumably grant eminent domain authority to take trees on private property, bordering a street or overhanging power lines.Glascock has earned his untrustworthy reputation through what some believe is contempt for public process. Allegations he broke city laws and bypassed the Council helped topple a project to widen Providence Rd. near the Grasslands neighborhood this year.
His own senior manager, Bill Weitkemper, repeatedly questioned Glascock's trustworthiness and department leadership over utility billing and sewer maintenance. Without the Council's knowledge or consent, for instance, Glascock signed a 2009 agreement with MU Facilities Director Gary Ward that forgave underbilled utility charges for the University of Missouri.